Second-quarter earnings at large regional banks were, on average, 10% higher than in 1996, according to First Call, the investment research firm.

Charles Hill, director of research at First Call, which is a sister company of American Banker, said his firm tracked earnings results at 209 banks this quarter. Overall, earnings were 1% above analysts' expectations.

One of the biggest surprises came from Banc One Corp., which reported earnings 16% below the year-previous quarter and 12% below analysts' estimates.

Another unexpected report-this one positive-came from First of America Bank Corp., which posted earnings 8% above estimates and 24% over the year- prior quarter.

Wells Fargo & Co. warned analysts a week before its earnings release to reduce their estimates. It had the biggest drop in earnings, at 31%.

Among the last banks to report, BOK Financial Corp. said Tuesday that its quarterly earnings had jumped 18%, to $16 million, because of strong loan growth and increases in fee businesses. Earnings per share were 66 cents.

Because Tulsa-based BOK is nearly 70% owned by Oklahoma businessman George B. Kaiser, there were no consensus earnings estimates for the bank.

BOK, the largest independent bank in Oklahoma, said it believes it benefited from other banks' acquisitions in its home market over the past year.

"We have consistently designed our business strategy with the assumption that we could ultimately become the sole remaining large commercial bank in Oklahoma with a dominant market position in a number of our products and markets," said chief executive officer Stanley A. Lybarger.

One of BOK's largest local competitors, Liberty Bancorp. of Oklahoma City, was acquired in June by Banc One.

BOK, with $5.3 billion of assets, said it also got help from its own acquisitions. The purchase of two Dallas banks-First National Bank of Park Cities in February and First Texas Bank in March-helped drive net interest income growth. BOK said net interest income rose 21%, to $37.7 million.

Noninterest income also grew dramatically. Gains in fees on mortgage banking, trusts, and deposit accounts helped the bank record a 21% increase in fee income-excluding losses from securities a year ago. The securities losses in 1996 were related to selloffs following a balance sheet restructuring. Including the year-previous losses, fee income rose 31%, to $31.4 million.

BOK is not the only midsize independent southwestern bank to report improved earnings. Cullen/Frost Bankers Inc. of San Antonio, the largest independent bank in Texas, earlier this month reported income rose 16%, to $15.6 million, fueled by strong loan growth. Earnings per share of 75 cents beat analysts' estimates by 2 cents. Net interest income at the $4.9 billion-asset company rose 11%, to $49 million. Noninterest income rose 13%, to $28 million.

In other earnings news, First Citizens Bancshares said Monday its earnings rose 7% to $17.6 million, or $1.54 a share. There were no quarterly estimates for Raleigh, N.C.-based First Citizens, but analysts have projected the bank will earn $6.33 for the year.

The $8.35 billion-asset company said net interest income rose 6%, to $76 million, and noninterest income rose 14%, to $29 million. Noninterest income benefited from the sale of mortgage loans.

Income was offset by higher expenses. A 22% increase in equipment expenses led to a 10% increase in overall expenses, to $75 million.

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