Who says a healthy appetite for acquisitions has to give your bottom line indigestion?

BB&T Corp., which continued a long buying spree in 2000, reported Friday that its fourth-quarter earnings rose 35%, to $225.4 million. Excluding special charges, earnings per share of 58 cents met Wall Street expectations, and net income for the year was $875 million before merger-related charges of $105.3 million.

It was a different story at Marshall & Ilsley Corp., whose profits fell 7%, to $84.3 million, because of a charge from the November withdrawal of an initial public offering of its M&I Data Services unit, the company said. Still, the Milwaukee banking company’s earnings beat Wall Street estimates, according to First Call/Thomson Financial.

BB&T officials credited solid asset quality for the Winston-Salem, N.C., company’s double-digit increase.

“I am pleased that we accomplished substantially all of our financial objectives despite the difficult business environment,” said John A. Allison, chairman and chief executive officer of $60 billion-asset BB&T. “The past year presented many challenges for financial services companies due to higher interest rates and the resulting slowing of the U.S. economy.”

BB&T completed five acquisitions in 2000, furthering a decade-long trend of buyouts of mostly small banks — those with assets of $500 million to $3 billion.

In its biggest deal of 2000, BB&T bought $6.6 billion-asset One Valley Bancorp of Charleston, W. Va. In December it closed the purchase of $900 million-asset BankFirst Corp. of Knoxville, Tenn.

The transactions have added up at BB&T, which had assets of around $5 billion a 10 years ago and has expanded throughout the South, from Maryland to Georgia and from West Virginia to eastern Tennessee.

David Stumpf, an analyst with A.G. Edwards & Sons in St. Louis, praised BB&T’s management and its buyout strategy.

“Acquisitions are a lot of business for BB&T,” he said. “They are a disciplined acquirer. They realize cost savings without disrupting revenue streams.”

BB&T’s fee income rose 18%, to $263.9 million. Expenses fell 7%, to $404.8 million. “The company continues to produce impressive results,” Mr. Stumpf said. “It was another good quarter.”

Marshall & Ilsley said net income for the year fell 11%, to $315 million. It put most of the blame on losses from the sale of investment securities and loans and expenses related to the failed stock offering for M&I Data Services, which provides software to more than 3,200 financial institutions. The bank reported a $5.4 million charge from the pulled IPO and the consolidation of charters, an analyst said.

Marshall & Ilsley planned to own about 85% of the stock in what was to be Metavante Corp. and to distribute all Metavante shares to its own shareholders within a year of the public offering. The parent company cited a slowdown in financial processing markets and technology stock prices as reasons behind the November IPO withdrawal.

Also, Metavante reduced its original $11-to-$13 range twice — to $10 to $12 and then $8 to $9. Executives at the company said they were leery about bringing the offering to market with that type of fluctuation, a common concern among companies contemplating a spinoff.

Excluding $46.5 million in charges, Marshall & Ilsley reported operating results of 83 cents per share, beating analysts’ expectations by 2 cents. The company owns 26 banks with more than 200 offices in Wisconsin.

Marshall & Ilsley’s provision for loan losses in the fourth quarter was $9 million, down 18% from the year-earlier quarter. Its consumer loans rose 13.6%, to $4.3 billion.

“Loan growth remained healthy,” said Jason Goldberg, an analyst with Lehman Brothers. “Credit quality is really good. The fee income is chugging right along.”

A restructuring of assets and liabilities in the fourth quarter helped the company pick up 5 basis points, Mr.Goldberg said. The net interest margin rose 14 basis points, well above the 4 basis points he had forecast. He called the earnings report “surprisingly good.”


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