With bank stocks hurt by investors fears of rising consumer credit problems, analysts are starting to search for bargains among banking companies having little actual exposure to consumer credit.
First Tennessee National Corp., whose shares fell more than 9% in June, is one such company, says Lehman Brothers analyst Sean Ryan. He slapped a buy rating on the Memphis bank's stock Tuesday, helping it climb 93 cents to $30.93.
"First Tennessee has been unfairly beaten down," he said. "But credit card chargeoffs were a relatively benign 3.3% in the first quarter, and should remain below 3.5% in the second quarter."
What's more, credit cards contributed only 14% to the bank's net income last year, while fee-generating businesses provided half of net income, Mr. Ryan said.
Mr. Ryan, who previously had an "outperform" rating on First Tennessee, believes the stock could reach $42 per share within 12 months.
First Tennessee's fee income comes from a major bond underwriting unit, and from mortgages, trusts, and merchant processing, among other businesses.
In the second quarter, revenues from bond underwriting were lower than expected, however, as many investors sat on their holdings waiting for a clear signal on the direction of interest rates, said Ruchi Madan, an analyst with Prudential Securities.
First Tennessee had been Ms. Madan's top bank stock, but she replaced it with Banc One Corp. recently because of the fall in bond underwriting revenues. She still rates First Tennessee a "buy" and expects the stock price to hit $40 within 12 months.
Mr. Ryan and Lehman Brothers colleague Michael Mayo said shares of Crestar Financial Corp. and Norwest Corp. also have been punished unfairly in the reaction to consumer credit worries. Shares of the Richmond, Va.- based company have dropped 3% in the past month, while those of the Minneapolis superregional have slipped 2.5%.
In other news, Southern National Corp. received two downgrades based on price. The stock of the company is up 18% this year.
Merrill Ross, an analyst with Wheat First Butcher Singer, and Mr. Mayo at Lehman lowered their ratings on the bank to "outperform" from "buy."
Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. upgraded a host of thrifts one day after the Supreme Court agreed these companies could sue the government over a change in accounting policy and thus might be awarded damages totaling billions of dollars. Among the companies upgraded are Dime Bancorp, Coast Savings Financial, Long Island Bancorp, and Cal Fed Bancorp.