NEW YORK -- Chemical Banking Corp.'s nonperforming assets have peaked, but real estate problems show no sign of improvement, top executives told securities analysts Thursday.

The officers also said the company is scouting acquisitions in New Jersey.

At Sept. 30, Chemical's problem assets stood at a hefty 4.74% of assets, up from 4.61% three months earlier. But the company expects that nonperforming assets will trend down in the next few quarters.

Loan chargeoffs have also peaked and will decline moderately over the next year, said Walter Shipley, chemical's president.

At the same time, Mr. Shipley said he sees no "meaningful improvement in the bank's real estimate problems." Chemical expects nonperforming real estate assets to remain flat through next year.

On the acquisitions front, chief executive John McGillicuddy said Chemical is looking to fill in its franchise in New Jersey and later on in Connecticut.

He said Chemical is currently looking at several candidates in New Jersey, but he declined to name institutions.

Separately, Joseph Sponholz, head of Chemical's merger transition team, said in Washington that the company expects 424 employees to take early retirement by the end of the year.

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