While a host of Northeast banks, including First Fidelity Bancorp., reported positive fourth-quarter earnings Wednesday, the Lawrenceville, N.J.-based bank also announced it would eliminate some 7.7% of its work force and close 40 of its 710 offices.
The nation's 25th-largest bank will cut 1,000 of its 13,000 jobs this year, said Paul Levine, a spokesman for the $36.2 billion-asset bank. Three hundred employees received pink slips two weeks ago, he said.
The bank is eliminating 500 positions from its core banking operations and 500 positions related to its November acquisition of Bank of Baltimore.
Mr. Levine said he did not know how many more employees would be eliminated, but he said the bank will know by early April.
"We're trying to target as much as we can through attrition," he said.
First Fidelity also plans to take a $5 million charge sometime this year related to the consolidation. According to Mr. Levine, the goal of the reduction program is to offset the expenses related to the $346 million acquisition of Bank of Baltimore.
The consolidation should help First Fidelity cut its efficiency ratio to between 50% and 52% from 57.8%, a goal set by the bank's chairman and chief executive, Anthony Terraciano.
Mr. Terraciano has never set a deadline for his target, but analysts said the consolidation shows he is serious.
Had it not been for the Bank of Baltimore acquisition, First Fidelity said it would have reported higher earnings than the $115.6 million it showed for the fourth quarter.
However, profits were 10% above the $104.4 million the bank reported for the fourth quarter of 1993. The fourth-quarter results also met the expectations of analysts.
"Productivity performance was temporarily impacted by recent acquisitions," Mr. Terraciano said in a statement. "It would be a mistake, however, to delay implementing the next stage of our productivity program."
Several other Northeast banks reported mixed earnings which largely disappointed Wall Street analysts.
"Bank earnings in general do not inspire anyone to go out and buy bank stocks," complained Frank Desantis, an analyst at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette. "In general, the fundamentals are at or below people's expectations."
Earnings at Providence, R.I.-based Fleet Financial Group rose 29% to $165 million, or $1.05 cents a share, 3 cents below analysts' expectations.
Profits were boosted by the $48.7 billion-asset bank's cost cutting measures, introduced a year ago, and by a strengthening New England economy, the bank said.
In Philadelphia, CoreStates Financial Corp. said fourth-quarter net income rose to $111.4 million, 17% over the year-earlier period.
The $29.3 billion-asset bank reported earnings of 78 cents per share in the fourth quarter, up from the 68 cents a share reported in 1993's fourth quarter. Earnings were in line with Wall Street's expectations.
The bank said profits were fueled by a strong net interest margin of 5.89%, a 34-basis-point jump from the fourth quarter of 1993.
Chairman Terrence Larsen said loan growth was up, and added, "The stability of our margin benefited from our strategic decision many years ago to minimize the interest rate risk that remains on our balance sheet."
Reading, Pa.-based Meridian Bancorp saw fourth-quarter net income rise 5% to $44 million. The bank's earnings of 77 cents a share were the exception among Northeast banks according to Wall Street expectations, coming in at 2 cents higher than anticipated.
Meridian attributed growth to a stable net interest income, asset management revenues, and improved asset quality.
Meanwhile, Princeton, N.J.-based UJB Financial Corp. reported a 39.2% increase in fourth-quarter earnings to $34.3 million or $.62 cents a share, but the net income was below what the Street anticipated.
Earnings at the $15.4 billion-asset bank fell 11 cents short of what analysts looked for because of a bulk sale of $132.7 million of nonperforming assets.
UJB continues to suffer from problem assets. As of Dec. 31, the bank's nonperforming loans to loans ratio was 1.74%, way above that of peers, which averages just under 1%, according to Merrill Ross of Wheat First Butcher Singer.
Edison, N.J.-based Midlantic Corp. reported fourth-quarter net income of $77 million, up 30%, partially due to accrued tax benefits.
In Pittsburgh, Integra Financial Corp. reported fourth-quarter net income of $39.1 million, up 5% over the same period of 1993. +++ Fleet Financial Group Providence, RI Dollar amounts in millions (except per share) Fourth Quarter 4Q94 4Q93 Net income $165.2 $136.0 Per share 1.05 0.85 ROA 1.42% 1.14% ROE 21.71% 16.98% Net interest margin 4.75% 4.91% Net interest income 492.7 522.4 Noninterest income 309.8 319.1 Noninterest expense 503.6 552.4 Loss provision 17.1 55.3 Net chargeoffs 32.1 68.3 Full Year 1994 1993 Net income $612.9 $488.0 Per share 3.75 3.01 ROA 1.27% 1.06% ROE 18.77% 16.07% Net interest margin 4.64% 5.02% Net interest income 2,021.9 2,084.3 Noninterest income 1,173.1 1,465.3 Noninterest expense 2,069.8 2,424.2 Loss provision 62.1 270.7 Net chargeoffs 103.7 290.4 Balance Sheet 12/94 12/93 Assets $48,757.1 $47,922.5 Deposits 34,806.1 31,084.8 Loans 27,540.6 26,310.3 Reserve/nonp. loans 215.70% 214.98% Nonperf. loans/loans 1.60% 1.77% Nonperf. assets/assets1.06% 1.25% Nonperf. assets/loans
+ OREO 1.88% 2.27% Leverage cap. ratio 7.8% 7.5% Tier 1 cap. ratio 10.3% 11.8% Tier 1+2 cap. ratio 14.5% 16.6% First Fidelity Bancorp. Lawrenceville, NJ Dollar amounts in millions (except per share) Fourth Quarter 4Q94 4Q93 Net income $115.6 $104.4 Per share 1.34 1.22 ROA 1.32% 1.26% ROE 15.92% 15.93% Net interest margin 4.56% 4.84% Net interest income 356.3 351.1 Noninterest income 110.4 102.2 Noninterest expense 272.6 262.3 Loss provision 15.0 29.0 Net chargeoffs 28.3 44.6 Full Year 1994 1993 Net income $451.1 $398.8 Per share 5.21 4.66 ROA 1.34% 1.27% ROE 16.08% 16.19% Net interest margin 4.70% 4.66% Net interest income 1,432.6 1,387.4 Noninterest income 416.9 383.5 Noninterest expense 1,069.6 1,014.7 Loss provision 79.0 148.0 Net chargeoffs 118.9 237.9 Balance Sheet 12/94 12/93 Assets $36,215.7 $33,762.6 Deposits 28,906.9 28,143 Loans 23,801.2 21,386.9 Reserve/nonp. loans 253% 159% Nonperf. loans/loans 0.99% 1.77% Nonperf. assets/assets 0.91% 1.47% Leverage cap. ratio 6.59% 7.22% Tier 1 cap. ratio 8.74% 9.96% Tier 1+2 cap. ratio 11.73% 13.42% ===