NEW YORK - In a sign of business uncertainty related to the slowdown in merger activity, fewer banks and other corporations are changing their names.

Anspach Grossman Portugal Inc., the corporate identity firm that tracks name changes, said 451 major U.S. companies changed their name in the first six months of 1993, down 31% from 653 in the 1992 period.

Changes in the financial services industry fell by 92, or 39%, to 143. But financial companies - including banks, thrifts, insurers, and securities brokers - still accounted for the largest share of the total.

Up in the Air

"A sense of uncertainty" related to health care reform, taxes, and other political issues led businesses "to either delay plans or proceed quite cautiously," said Joel Portugal, a partner in the New York-based firm.

Banking changes included the consolidation of Central Trust Co. of Cincinnati, Citizens Fidelity Bank of Louisville, and other units of Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank Corp. under the banner.

Also, Valley National Corp. of Phoenix adopted the name of its acquirer, Banc One Corp. of Columbus, Ohio.

Mr. Portugal noted a trend away from numbers in bank names. Of banks with "First" in their titles, 12 out of 13 dropped the number after a divestiture, acquisition, or merger.

For example, First American Bank of New York was bought by Keycorp and became Key Bank of New York, and First Dubuque Corp. in Iowa became part of Hawkeye Bancorp.

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