Comerica Inc. said fourth-quarter profits rose 10%, to $194 million, on growth in business loans and fees from its investment advisory business.
The $42 billion-asset Detroit banking company is best known as a major commercial lender, but in recent months it has broadened its horizons. In November it announced plans to buy Imperial Bancorp of Inglewood, Calif., in a $1.3 billion stock transaction that would expand Comericas middle-market and small-business lending business, especially in California.
And the banking company is not done acquiring. On Tuesday, chief executive, Eugene Miller, told CNBC that the bank would scout more deals within its existing markets and elsewhere.
The Imperial deal, which is scheduled to close this month, surprised some market watchers. As a commercial lender, Comerica has long had a reputation for keeping a close eye on credit quality. Its nonperforming assets rose 13% in the fourth quarter, to $273 million, but Comerica has escaped the big blowups that have plagued other banks in recent months.
Ralph W. Babb Jr., vice chairman and chief financial officer, said that five new credits were classified as nonperforming during the quarter, including one to a health-care concern, but that none of the loans were for more than $20 million. We have seen nothing unusual, he said.
Imperial is a different story. Its nonperforming assets rose 56% in the third quarter. Comerica said it would make sure Imperials loan book was cleaned up, and that the process might include adding reserves or restructuring the portfolio.
Comerica will release Imperials fourth-quarter and yearend results after the deal is closed.
It may be perceived as a black mark, said Diana Yates, an analyst at A.G. Edwards & Sons. But Comerica has been a very risk-averse company. They can handle some more risk.
Mr. Babb said the company is comfortable with expectations of earnings per share of $5.06 for this year. The economy is slowing down a bit, but our pipelines are still relatively full.
Fourth-quarter earnings per share of $1.20 beat analysts consensus by a penny.
Comerica fee income rose 1%, to $198 million, including the impact of charges and gains in the corresponding periods for 2000 and 1999. Excluding one-time items, fee income rose 12% in the fourth quarter, to $149 million, driven by a 69% jump in revenues from the investment advisory unit, Munder Capital Management. At the end of 2000, Munder had $48.1 billion of assets under management.
Fees from deposit charges rose 9%, to $41.7 million.
Expenses rose 2%, to $294 million.