Capital One Financial Corp. said this week that it expects 1997 earnings of $2.76 a share, which would be a 20% improvement on 1996 and 9 cents better than First Call Corp.'s analyst consensus.

"The improved earnings outlook is due to the success of our marketing innovations as well as a more positive credit outlook," said Richard D. Fairbank, Capital One chairman and chief executive officer.

The company also reaffirmed its goals of 20% earnings growth and 20% return on equity for 1998.

Susan Roth, vice president at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, said the company's success is mostly due to the maturing of such products as secured, joint-account, and cobranded credit cards.

Capital One began marketing these products as alternatives to its low- rate, no-fee, balance-transfer approach.

"These products have higher returns per dollar of assets," said Ms. Roth.

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