Bank One Corp. is making good on a first-quarter pledge to weed out its less profitable corporate borrowing clients.
During the first three months of the year the Chicago banking company started going through its pool of large commercial clients with an eye toward either selling them more products or reducing - and in some cases ending - relationships it felt it could not make more profitable.
On Tuesday the Bloomberg News service, citing an internal Bank One document, reported that the company will stop lending to 318 companies and tell another 636 that their credit relationships could end if they do not start using the company for other business.
Tom Kelly, a spokesman for Bank One, would not confirm the number of customers affected and said he had not seen the document. But he confirmed that the company has been reviewing its customer relationships and rejecting those that are not profitable enough.
"We need to review large corporate relationships to look at whether they are mutually beneficial," he said.
For Bank One's part, its options include offering its borrowers capital markets products like asset-backed securities, reducing the amount of money it lends, or in some cases ending relationships, he said.
In January, James Dimon, chief executive of the $270 million-asset company, told investors at a conference that it planned to comb through its 1,700-client portfolio because it was losing money on credit products. At the time he acknowledged that the company was one of the last to go through this weeding out process.
Bank of America Corp., among others, has announced similar plans to reduce the number of its loan-only corporate relationships.
Bradley Vander Ploeg, an analyst at Robert W. Baird Inc. in Chicago, said indications that Bank One is going through its loan book in this manner "is encouraging because it means that they're focused on customer-by-customer profitability.
"It's pretty well known that money is not made in lending" to corporations, he said.