Chase Manhattan Corp. shares led a broad bank stock rally Thursday, after investor Michael F. Price disclosed a 6.1% stake in the New York money-center.
Chase, up $3.625 to $41.625, and Chemical Banking Corp., up $1.75 to $41, were among the 10 most actively traded stocks. Citicorp, First Chicago Corp., J.P. Morgan & Co., BankAmerica Corp., First Interstate Bancorp, and NationsBank also scored big gains.
"Michael Price has invested in Michigan National Corp., Chase, Signet, and Chemical," said Susan L. Roth, a managing director at Bear, Stearns & Co. "His bank investments provide a catalyst to the bank market."
Heine Securities, of which Mr. Price is president, started accumulating Chase stock after Feb. 13 because it was "cheap," said Ray Garea, a portfolio fund manager at the Short Hills, N.J., firm.
Mr. Price is known to pressure management of underperforming companies he invests to improve shareholder returns. He is widely credited for forcing the recent sale of Michigan National to National Australia Bank.
Analysts expect him to be an active shareholder in Chase as well, although Heine's 13-D filing on Wednesday lacked the combative tone of the one that disclosed its stake in Michigan National.
Alison A. Deans, an analyst at Smith Barney Inc., raised her rating on Chase to "attractive" from "neutral" on news of Price's stake.
"Now that they have a more active shareholder who has been vocal in the past with other firms, management might pick up the pace," said Ms. Deans.
Analysts said Chemical, BankAmerica, NationsBank, and foreign banks might make viable acquirers. They said Chase could be sold at about 1.5 times book, generating $50 to $60 per share. They were quick to discount the idea that the sixth-largest American banking company could be acquired in the near term.
They predicted near-term gains in share price, however, if Mr. Price can pressure Chase's management to focus on core businesses such as credit cards, mortgages, and securities processing and possibly sell other units.
To be sure, some analysts shrugged off the news.
"Chase has had disgruntled shareholders for two decades," said Stephen Berman of Natwest Securities Corp. Mr. Berman recently downgraded Chase to "hold" from "accumulate," noting signals from the bank that poor global trading results could hurt first-quarter earnings. "One more disgruntled shareholder won't affect them."