Banking analyst Mark T. Lynch of Lehman Brothers initiated coverage of Boatmen's Bancshares Inc. on Wednesday with an "outperform" rating.

He called Wall Street's 1993 earnings estimates for the St. Louis superregional "way too low."

Mr. Lynch expects Boatmen's to earn $6.15 a share this year. In contrast, the Wall Street consensus estimate is $5.77 a share, according to First Call Corp.

In late trading. Boatmen's shares were up 50 cents t $60.375. Mr. Lynch believe they can reach $73 within 12 months, an upside potential of

Loss Provision Dropping

The analyst thinks failing quarterly loan-loss provisions will be the major short-term factor behind higher results at the St. Louis bank.

He noted that Boatmen's has a "huge" reserve of $308.4 million against losses. The reserve equaled 2.38% of loans on March 30. This compares with a 1.88% average ratio among large midwestern regional banks followed by Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc.

Chargeoffs in the first quarter were a minuscule 0.23% of loans. That was third best among the nation's 50 largest banks, according to Keefe Bruyette.

Positive Attributes

Nonperforming assets remain relatively high, at 2.49% of loans and foreclosed real estate, but the loan-loss reserve comfortably covered 170% of nonperforming assets.

Mr. Lynch also cited loan growth, a stable net interest margin, and dominant market positions in Missouri and New Mexico as important factors in the bank's earnings outlook.

He also cited the bank's recent mergers as opportunistic deals that can add momentum to earnings.

Last year, Boatmen's acquired $3.3 billion-asset SunWest Financial Services, Albuquerque; $1.2 billion-asset First Interstate Banks (Iowa), Des Moines; and $320 million-asset Founders Bancorp., Oklahoma City.

The Sunwest acquisition initially diluted earnings per share, but Boatmen's noted that the New Mexico bank earned over 1% on assets during the first quarter.

Second Quarter Looks Good

Mr. Lynch expects the fresh momentum to show up in the second-quarter results. He forecast earnings of $1.53 a share versus the consensus view of $1.46.

For 1994, he anticipates earnings of $6.65 a share, versus $6.27 expected by others on the Street.

Boatmen's also got a vote of confidence recently from analysts at Keefe Bruyette. On June 22, they raised their own 1993 earnings estimate for the bank significantly to $5.70 from $5.40 a share.

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