Arizona's Western Savings and Loan Assoc., which has a branch in Salt Lake and credit card operations in Murray, reported a $150 million loss for 1988.

Officials at the Phoenix-based institution said investment bankers have been hired to help raise capital and restructure in anticipation of more losses.A spokesman told the Deseret News that Western's Utah operations, employing 115 people, shouldn't be affected by any changes. Deposits in the Salt Lake branch are protected by the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp. up to $100,000, and the credit card operation fits into the S&L's plan of increasing its fee income base.

Western spent $1 million last year to restore its historic downtown Salt Lake office at 151 S. Main.

Dismal year-end results were caused primarily by a $125 million write down of soured assets, a soft Arizona real estate economy and soaring deposit rates industrywide, president and chief operating officer Gary Miller said.

The $5.67 billion institution was a big player in Arizona's now overbuilt and depressed commercial real estate market. Spokesman John Meadows said Western has shifted its lending strategy to single family mortgages and consumer loans.

The switch came on recommendation from the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, he said, which is closely monitoring the institution under an operating agreement.

Western has not been placed under the federal government's Joint Regulatory Oversight Program for insolvent institutions, and Meadows said management is confident it will not need federal assistance to pull out of its problems.

However, Miller said Western's auditors will issue a qualified opinion on the final 1988 financial statements, which usually means auditors question the institution's ability to operate without assistance.

The $150 million annual loss, $14.30 a share, put Western's shareholder equity at a minus $31 million. Regulatory net worth was reduced to $200 million, or 3.5 percent of liabilities.

The 1988 results compare to a $33.41 million gain, $2.13 a share, in 1987.

Western also suffered a net drain on deposits of $457.65 million by year end.

For the 1988 fourth quarter, Western posted a $153 million loss, $13.95 a share, compared to $4.64 million, 26 cents a share, the year before.

During 1988, founders of the 29-year-old S&L resigned and a new chairman and chief executive will be named next month, Miller said.