For more than a week, First Chicago Corp. has been promoting a proposed equity offering to investors at road shows around the country. If the company's recent share price is any indication, the response has been somewhat tepid.

"If you're going to buy it, you've got to be a patient investor," said Michael Milunovich of Robert W. Baird & Co.

The stock mostly has been inching down in the past 10 trading sessions. It slipped further Tuesday, closing at $31.875 a share, down 50 cents for the day.

Bank stocks in general were mixed Tuesday, amid a decline in the broader market. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 17.11, to 3,396.10.

Earnings Estimate Down

On April 28, the day First Chicago filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to sell as many as 9.2 million common shares, the company's share price fell $1.12, to $31.25, as investors reacted to the moderately dilutive effect of the offering.

Citing the dilution, Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Chris Kotowski last month lowered his 1992 earnings estimate by a dime to $2.70 a share. He cut the high end of the range of his 1993 estimate to $3.75 a share from $4.

Though Mr. Kotowski recommends the stock, he stated in a May 6 research report that the planned stock offering was "modestly disappointing."

At its current market price, First Chicago is selling at only about 91% of its book value of $35.07 a share.

"We had been cognizant of the risk of an offering but had expected the company to wait at least until the stock price exceeded book value," Mr. Kotowski said in the report.

Mr. Milunovich at Robert Baird said First Chicago could use some more equity on its balance sheet.

At the end of the first quarter, the ratio of average common equity to average assets was 4.5%.

"I think that's light," said Mr. Milunovich, who generally likes to see a ratio of 6.5% or so.

While buying the stock now requires some patience on the part of investors, Mr. Milunovich said they could be amply rewarded, assuming First Chicago is able to put its troubled asset problems behind it.

"I could see a considerable appreciation over a two-year period," he said.

In the April filing with the SEC, First Chicago disclosed that it was considering creation of a "bad bank" to liquidate up to $3 billion of problem assets and foreclosed real estate.

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