Despite a lot of skepticism from many analysts, Bank One Corp. still has its supporters on Wall Street, including analyst Ruchi Madan of Salomon Smith Barney, who upgraded the stock on Monday to "buy" from "outperform" even as she slashed her earnings per share forecast for this year and next.
In a research note, Ms. Madan said she expects Bank One to record profits for this year of $2.41 per share, down 19 cents from her previous estimate, and $3.10 per share for next year, down 10 cents from an earlier forecast. Chicago-based Bank One is in the midst of a major reorganization and it continues to be haunted by problem loans. Many analysts reiterated either lukewarm or negative outlooks on the company after it released its second-quarter profit report last week.
Still, Ms. Madan said Monday that she thinks many people are underestimating Bank One's strength, and indeed her estimates differ from those of her Wall Street peers. According to First Call/Thomson Financial, the average estimate of analysts calls for earnings per share this year of $2.49 and $2.92 for 2002.
"Our view is that the earnings potential of Bank One is greater then most believe due to the leverage of lower credit costs and additional cost reductions," Ms. Madan wrote in a note to investors.
Bank One is scheduled to make a presentation to Wall Street and investors in New York later this week. Ms. Madan said she anticipates that the company would guide expectations higher for 2002 after guiding them down for this year.
On Monday, Bank One was one of a few financial stocks trading higher. The stock ended up 1.06%, while the American Banker index of 225 banks was down 1.14%.
Ms. Madan is not alone with her bullish outlook. David S. Berry, director of research at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc., upgraded the stock to "buy" from "outperform" one day after Bank One's earnings announcement, and Susan Roth of Credit Suisse First Boston has had it on "buy" for some time.
Meanwhile, Keith Horowitz, a Salomon Smith Barney analyst who covers mid-cap banks, lowered his ratings for four companies. He cut M&T Bank Corp. of Buffalo, N.Y., SouthTrust Corp. of Birmingham, Ala., Sovereign Bancorp. Inc. of Wyomissing, Pa., and Synovus Financial Corp. of Columbus, Ga., to "outperform" from "buy."
He wrote that the mid-cap group has risen 18% since the beginning of the year, compared with a 1% increase among the 20 largest banks. The four banks downgraded on Monday were among the best performers, "which has led their valuation to be close to all-time highs," he wrote in his note.
M&T shares fell 1.81%, SouthTrust 1.83%, Sovereign 1.58%, and Synovus 0.98%.