Firstar Corp. chairman and chief executive officer Roger L. is declaring success after a one-and-a-half-year restructuring-though it fell short of target and disappointed Wall Street.
In an announcement last week after its second-quarter earnings report, Milwaukee-based Firstar said it had encountered unexpected costs and revenue shortfalls that would leave it short of its goal of $140 million in cost savings and revenue enhancements by yearend.
The $19.3 billion-asset company said it will instead have about $82 million of additional income.
Mr. Fitzsimonds said: "We now have the structure, the organization, the technology going forward."
Firstar has actually cut $143 million of recurring costs, he said, and the shortfall this year is blamed on one-time expenses such as $10 million associated with the restructuring and $33 million of lost net interest income because of business disruptions during the reorganization.
"You can slice and dice it all you want, but clearly the $140 million does not show up," said Ben Crabtree, an analyst at Dain Bosworth Inc. in Minneapolis.
Firstar earned $72.7 million in the second quarter, or 50 cents a share. That fell 2 cents short of the analysts' consensus estimate. Quarterly expenses of $180 million were 6% greater than a year earlier. Firstar will not hit its goal of a 55% ratio of operating expenses to revenues, Mr. Fitzsimonds said.
It has consistently missed estimates, encouraged analysts to reduce projections, or simply not met goals set out in January 1996 when the Firstar Forward program was launched. The program included the elimination of 2,500 jobs, or 26% of the workforce.
Mr. Crabtree, one of the analysts cutting his Firstar earnings estimates, said, "I think they've lost some credibility with the Street."
"They're not delivering on what they set out to do a year and a half ago," said Joseph Roberto, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. "At this point, I just don't see things getting better."
The quarterly news wasn't all bad. Loans were up 6.5% over 12 months, and the 1.5% return on assets and 18.86% return on equity still compare favorably with other regional banks, said Mr. Roberto.
However, he added, "it just seems they can do better. I think that's what people are frustrated over."
The company did not anticipate the revenue losses Firstar Forward would cause, Mr. Fitzsimonds said, and he said he believed the investment community would understand that early assumptions could change.
"You can't, in January 1996, take a snapshot and ask the world to stop moving," he said.