Bank of Boston Corp. and Citicorp are likely to benefit from a flight to quality in Argentina as depositors in that country grow more concerned about the stability of banks there, analysts said.
"Both companies are seen as innovative, safe players in Argentina," remarked Diane Glossman, a banking analyst with Salomon Brothers Inc.
Andre A. Cappon, an international banking analyst and president of the New York-based CBM Group Inc., agreed. "They're probably a class act in those markets," he said. "Whenever something happens, foreign banks benefit first and Citicorp and Bank of Boston benefit the most."
Bank of Boston has $3.1 billion in assets in Argentina. About $1.8 billion of that amount is lent directly from the bank in Boston to companies or government entities in Argentina. The rest is composed of loans made by the Bank of Boston affiliate in Argentina to the local market.
More than half the Argentine assets are funded by dollar deposits collected locally, the bank said.
According to estimates by Nancy Bush, a banking analyst with Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., Bank of Boston's Argentine franchise will supply up to 40 cents of $4.15 in expected earnings per share this year. But, she added, the outlook is still "fuzzy."
Manuel Sacerdote, Bank of Boston's country head manager for Argentina, insisted, "If there's been any effect (from financial instability) so far, it's been a positive effect."
Bank of Boston senior executives have stressed that uncertainty in Argentina will not have a negative impact on the bank's earnings.
Citicorp, J.P. Morgan & Co., Chase Manhattan Corp., and Chemical Banking Corp. are the other main U.S. institutions operating in Argentina, though the latter three banks focus on corporate finance and capital-markets- related activities, rather than retail banking.
Citicorp runs both a consumer and a corporate bank, and has $4.3 billion in Argentine assets, according to estimates by CS First Boston.
Mr. Cappon and others warned that in the longer term, Citicorp and Bank of Boston could run into less growth and a slowdown in earnings from Argentina.
"There are a lot of unknowns," said Raphael Soifer, another bank analyst with Brown Brothers Harriman.
Argentina and other emerging markets have suffered from financial instability, including a run on deposits and a fall in central bank reserves since Mexico devalued the peso in December.
In both Argentina and Mexico, local banks have watched bad loans mount, threatening to wipe out their capital.
Argentina has obtained $4.7 billion in credits from international lending agencies and is reportedly seeking an additional $3 billion in credits from the G-7 group of industrialized countries.
A spokesman for Bank of Boston said the bank has not been asked to participate in the $3 billion credit that Argentina is seeking, but added, "We will try to find an appropriate way of participating after reviewing the facts."
A Citicorp spokesman was unavailable for comment on either the impact of market turmoil or possible participation in an Argentine rescue package.