Investors should avoid buying Bankers Trust Corp. stock until receiving clearer indications that the company will be indeed be bought by Deutsche Bank AG, an analyst said Monday.
The skeptical comment on Deutsche Bank's $93-a-share bid came in the form of a downgrade of Bankers Trust shares, to "hold" from "strong buy," by Carla D'Arista, a banking analyst at Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co. Investors should "hold at this time and sell at $93," she said.
Bankers Trust shares on Monday fell 25 cents, to $84.
In lowering her assessment of Bankers Trust several notches, Ms. D'Arista said the strong buy had been based on expectations of a turnaround after a poor third quarter or by a clearer picture of a purchaser.
"Although we believe the transaction will be consummated, this is not entirely assured," Ms. D'Arista said."
With the downgrade, Ms. D'Arista joined other market watchers in professing some concern about the $10.2 billion deal, which would create an international operation with $831 billion of assets.
The transaction, announced in late November, is expected to be completed by next spring, according to statements made by executives with Bankers Trust and Deutsche Bank.
Market watchers have cited possible delays by U.S. regulators as their foreign counterparts conduct reviews and the high cost of capital for Deutsche Bank to complete the deal.
One indication of the skepticism in the market is that the stock has been shunned by arbitragers who usually bid up a share price in anticipation the purchase will be completed.
Ms. D'Arista advised clients to monitor Bankers Trust's "daily price fluctuations," and she slashed her own fourth-quarter earnings estimate by 20 cents, to 55 cents.
In broader action Monday, the Standard & Poor's bank index dipped 0.36% and the Nasdaq bank index rose 0.31%. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.09% and the S&P 500 was off 0.06%.
Citigroup slipped 56.25 cents, to $51.0625, and J.P. Morgan & Co. 18.75 cents, to $104.8125. Chase Manhattan Corp. rose 62.5 cents, to $71.375.
Shares of smaller banks and thrifts remained under pressure. The group includes Western Bancorp, whose shares fell 93.75 cents, to $28.1875, after a disclosure that lower interest rates will have a negative impact on the company's net interest margin.
The stock was reduced to "buy" from a "strong buy" by Erick Reim, an analyst at Piper Jaffrey Inc.
Mr. Reim lowered his fourth-quarter earnings estimate for Western by 4 cents, to 43 cents. He cut his fiscal 1998 earnings estimate to $1.62, from $1.66, and his fiscal 1999 estimate to $2, from $2.15.
"We expect Western's net interest margin to remain under pressure during 1999, and that additional reductions in interest rates will continue to have a negative impact on its margin," Mr. Reim said. Overall, however, he expressed confidence in the company, saying it "is well positioned for growth in both the short term and the long term."
Shares of Charles Schwab Corp., rose $3.25, to $63.625. Schwab is the largest on-line trader for equities.