Wheat, First Securities Inc. has upgraded its rating on CCB Financial Corp.'s stock to a "strong buy" on expectations that the Durham, N.C.-based super community bank is poised for a dramatic earnings increase.

Wheat First, a Richmond-based brokerage firm, estimates CCB should earn $3.90 a share, up 20% from the prior year.

"Based on our 1994 earnings estimates, CCB should post one of the highest increases in earnings of any bank we follow," stated a recently released Wheat First report on the company.

Wheat First also believes CCB should be trading in the $40-a-share-range within the next 12 to 18 months. The company's stock closed at $33.25 on Friday.

CCB Financial has $3.2 billion of assets and 116 offices. It operates banks and thrifts throughout the state and is the eighth-largest banking company in North Carolina.

Wheat First likes CCB because it has a clean loan portfolio and is a strong earner - its averaged return on assets over the last five years is 1.11%.

And its return on equity has averaged a solid 14.8% over the same period - "a difficult feat given the problems faced by the industry during much of that period," the report said.

One reason earnings have been sound is that total problem assets represented only 0.83% of assets at Sept. 30. Net loan losses on an annual basis averaged a mere 0.33% of the portfolio over the five-year period.

"This is a remarkable record, in our opinion, considering the industry-wide deterioration in credit quality experienced in 1990 and 199 l," the report said.

The company has churned out these numbers while acquiring four thrift institutions in the state this year.

Of CCB's deposits, 86% are in Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and Raleigh-Durham. "Despite its relatively small size, overall it is CCB's strong presence in these major markets that provide it with significant franchise value, in our opinion," the report said.

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