In a sign that it is realizing merger efficiencies ahead of schedule, Chemical Banking Corp. said more than 2,000 employees had accepted a retirement package that requires them to leave the bank by July 1.
The larger-than-expected departure will bring Chemical 81% of the way toward its goal of eliminating 6,200 positions in the wake of its merger with Manufacturers Hanover Corp.
A company spokesman said the bank was "reluctant" to speculate whether it would exceed its cost-reduction goals of $750 million a year by the beginning of 1994.
Separately, Moody's Investors Services upgraded the senior long-term ratings of Chemical Banking Corp. and its subsidiaries to Baa 1 from Baa 2.
"The rating upgrades reflect the progress management has made in realizing cost savings, improving capitalization, and increasing revenues," Moody's said, adding that it also raised by a notch Chemical's subordinated debt and preferred stock ratings.
The rating agency warned, however, that Chemical retains a "very large and problematic commercial real estate portfolio with a worrisome concentration in the Metro New York area."
Some analysts believe that the large number of people accepting Chemical's retirement package - 2,044 employees - has put it ahead of schedule on its expense plans. Since Chemical and Hanover announced their merger last summer, 2,985 employees - excluding those taking early retirement - have left through attrition and layoffs.
Chemical has said that it expects to save $ 250 million this year and predicted that personnel savings alone would rise to $350 million a year by 1994.
"Management's new target for first-year savings will fall in the $285 million to $300 million range," wrote Frank R. DeSantis, an analyst with Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette in a recent report.
Some Were Asked to Wait
The Chemical spokesman said that 56% of the employees eligible for the retirement package accepted the program. Originally, the bank planned to accept only the first 40% of employees in each business unit who applied for the package, but revised its plans.
"There was a possibility that some units would have been really gutted, so it was felt that there should be some ability to limit the outflow," said John Stefans, the bank spokesman.
Employees, for their part, appear to have grabbed while the grabbing was good. Under the plan, they receive a 10% increase in the value of their accrued pension benefits and retain existing post-retirement benefits.
Employees remaining at Chemical will have retirement benefits cut as of July 1, primarily through requirements that they pay higher medical costs.
The plan also gives early retirees a lump-sum payment of three weeks' salary for each year of service, up to 52 weeks.
Despite the high number of employees taking the package, Chemical said it accounted for all costs inthe $625 million restructuring charge it took in the fourth quarter of 1991.
Mr. Stefans said a small percentage of employees who accepted the package were being asked to stay on for a few more months "to ensure an orderly transition."
Former employees of Hanover participated in the program to a greater extent than those from the original Chemical, Mr. Stefans said. He said that was partly because Chemical had offered two early-retirement programs before the merger.