CHICAGO - Though Bank One Corp. is not slated to reveal its second-quarter results for another three weeks and has been tight-lipped about its planned restructuring, analysts say it could take a second-quarter charge of $1 billion to $2 billion as it cleans up problems in several major businesses.
Those charges are tied to a series of expected writedowns involving some of Bank One's core businesses, including its troubled First USA credit card unit and its Internet venture, WingspanBank.com, according to industry observers.
Bank One chairman and chief executive James Dimon and chief financial officer Charles Scharf are to meet with analysts in New York on July 19, two days after the company releases its earnings report. At the meeting, Mr. Dimon is expected to bring Wall Street up to speed on the progress he has made since taking control of the $273 billion-asset company in late March.
Analysts and investors have been awaiting word from both Bank One and First Union Corp. as the two seek to end a string of disappointing fiscal quarters and rebuild momentum after misfiring in efforts to digest large acquisitions. Top management at each company is also trying to demonstrate a willingness to address problems quickly.
"In my view, the more they do up-front to clean house, the better," said Susan L. Roth, an analyst at Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corp. She said Mr. Dimon is more likely to be aggressive in clearing the decks now than face the chance of not having done enough. "I'd rather see it come in one charge all up-front than have it drag on like Chinese water torture," she said.
PaineWebber Inc. analyst Ruchi Madan wrote in a recent report on Bank One that she expects a pretax charge of $1.5 billion for the quarter, which would include the realization of securities losses, writedowns on Internet and affinity contracts, and auto lease residuals that lost significant value.
She also predicted that the nation's fifth-largest banking company would cut its dividend in half, saving about $1 billion annually in capital. If Bank One does cut its quarterly payout, currently 42 cents per share, it would be taking a step that First Union has rejected.
(First Union chief executive G. Kennedy Thompson, in laying out terms of that company's restructuring, said reducing the dividend "is not even a question." He said many of the institutions that own First Union stakes bought them for the yield and many of the banking company's own customers also own the stock. "There was no need to send the signal that this is a distressed company when we didn't need the capital," he said.
If analysts' estimates are close to the mark, the second-quarter hit at Bank One would far exceed a $725 million restructuring announced last December that included the cutting of 5,100 jobs. A Bank One spokesman declined to comment.
Joseph Duwan, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc., said he expects the company will report charges totaling about $1 billion. The estimate is based on what he said Bank One has made public this year.
In its first-quarter report, Bank One warned investors to expect bigger loan losses this year.
"We think Bank One is likely to take a kitchen-sink cleanup charge that could be in the range of $1 billion to $2 billion," said Michael Mayo, an analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston. Mr. Mayo said he expects writedowns of its businesses, including its First USA unit, WingspanBank.com, problems stemming from computer system consolidation, and a charge linked to cleaning up asset quality.