Chase Manhattan Corp. said Wednesday that it will continue to pump capital into its private equity unit, Chase Capital Partners - just a day after Wall Street expressed concern over the unit's poor performance and its possible drag on fourth-quarter earnings.
The New York banking company plans to invest at least $8 billion over five years in direct private equity investments in addition to the $5 billion Chase Capital Partners has raised from outside sources, Chase said in a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday. The filing came on the heels of a report from Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown Inc. that estimated Chase Capital's public venture capital portfolio would be subject to losses of up to $320 million were it to report earnings right now. That would pull the bank's per-share operating income down to 65 cents to 70 cents. Analysts are calling for earnings of 85 cents a share.
The controversy over how Chase Capital's volatility affects the banking company's stock is not new and has been the subject of much discussion among analysts and investors since the beginning of the year.
Chase has been grappling with how to present its equity investments to analysts and investors accustomed to judging value on a quarterly basis. The company has tried to persuade the public to tolerate the swings created by the private equity business. It has also toyed with splitting off the unit as a tracking stock, which is still a possibility.
Chase Capital Partners, which was founded in 1984 and currently has $22 billion invested, posted a third-quarter loss of $25 million, compared with profits of $298 million in the second quarter. The loss dampened the parent company's per-share earnings to 68 cents.
Analysts and investors judge Chase Capital Partners on the performance of investments open to the public. The unit's entire portfolio is heavily invested in telecommunications (22%) and technology information services (18%).
However, public investments account for only 543 of the total 1,014 investments Chase Capital Partners has made, according to the SEC document.
The filing breaks down Chase's five-year commitment to at least $2 billion next year, and at least $1.5 billion for each of the following four years.
Chase Capital Partners has also invested in life sciences, health-care, industrial, real estate, consumer, and financial services companies throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia.
On Wednesday some analysts, who pointed out how early in the quarter Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown had issued its report, said they were prepared to cut Chase some slack.
"We are five weeks from the end of the quarter, so it's a little premature to assume where it will end up for the year," said Diane Glossman, an analyst at UBS Warburg.
Diana P. Yates, an equity analyst with A.G. Edwards & Sons in St. Louis said the report is too speculative.
A.G. Edwards is maintaining its "buy" rating on Chase's stock and prefers to take a broader view of the banking company, Ms. Yates said. With Chase set to buy J.P. Morgan & Co. next month, "things will only get better," she said.
As Chase evolves into a more diversified company, investors should compare it with other top-line investment firms like Goldman Sachs & Co. and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, which are currently trading around 15 to 18 times earnings, Ms. Yates said. Chase trades at around 11 times earnings and is a good buy, she said.
Lawrence Cohn, an analyst at Ryan, Beck & Co. in Livingston, N.J., said Chase has had too much capital tied up in private equity. As long as it is continuing to put in more, he said, it is well that it plans to merely maintain, rather than increase, the inflow of recent years.
"They are true believers in the new economy, and the result of that is that they view the recent selloff in the Nasdaq as an opportunity," he said. "They look at their historic record in the venture capital business and believe they can produce those returns going forward."
Chase was one of the most actively traded stocks Tuesday, shedding 4% of its value. On Wednesday, Chase's share price was relatively flat, even as other bank stocks were trading up after a report showed that the gross domestic product growing at its slowest pace in four years.