Investors who follow large-cap regional banking stocks have been eager for some of the group to get on with reorganizations mandated by years of acquisitions. Last week two of the players outlined where theyre headed.
On Wednesday, Bank of America Corp. of Charlotte, N.C., announced that it is planning to quit the auto leasing and subprime realty lending businesses, requiring it to take a $1.25 billion third-quarter charge. Meanwhile, Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp in its 10Q filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, shed more light on whats it been doing to streamline operations in the wake of its Feb. 27 purchase by Firstar Corp., which has taken its name. The companys restructuring charges will reach $1.4 billion, instead of the $800 million originally anticipated, according to its quarterly filing. The companies gave more details of where they have taken charges announced with their second-quarter results. Merger-related charges totaled $962.7 million in the first half, U.S. Bancorp said. Among the provisions were $201.3 million for discontinuing certain small-business products of U.S. Bank, a subsidiary. Most of the charges are related to leaving other lines of business. It also said that it took $428.3 million of charges for balance sheet restructuring during the first half.
Analyst Steven Wharton of Boston-based Loomis, Sayles & Co., who recently touted U.S. Bancorp. as one of his favorite companies, said that the filing did not change his investment opinion.
The second quarter showed core revenue growth, Mr. Wharton said. And the recent acquisition of Nova Corp., a payment processor based in Louisville, Ky., should give the company more earnings flexibility, he said. The Nova deal closed July 24, the day U.S. Bancorp announced plans to repurchase 54.4 million of its shares.
Clearly I am disappointed about the additional charges, but that should really be the end of it, Mr. Wharton said Friday. They found some portfolios they wanted to exit and had to write them down to sell them.
Bank of America has done the exact same thing, he added, referring to the companys announcement on Wednesday. They should have exposed that a long time ago, but they couldnt get a buyer, he said, so the company wrote down the portfolios value in order to sell it.
The decision to take a hit now in order to shore up future returns was welcomed by most analysts. Catherine Murray of J.P. Morgan Securities wrote in a note that overall asset quality, Bank of Americas Achilles heel, should improve.
But is this it for B of A? David Hendler, an analyst at CreditSights Inc., an independent research company in New York, said he does not think so.
What we are worried about is that the company is abandoning businesses that they originally championed as key, without highlighting the businesses that fit its risk-return hurdles instead, he wrote in a research note. Mr. Hendler said he expects more writedowns by Bank of America.
Bank of Americas stock which has risen 34.1% this year, fell 1.09% on Friday. U.S. Bancorp fell 1.24% but has risen 7.16% since Jan. 2. The American Banker index of 225 banks was down 1.74% Friday, and the Standard & Poors 500 index fell 1.67%.