Poring over details of Union Planters Corp.'s surprising profit shortfall, analysts pointed to the company's failure to cut expenses and an apparent customer runoff as the key reasons for the lone sour note in a solid fourth-quarter earnings season for big banks.

What they also noticed was a simple failure to communicate. The quarter was by no means a flop. The Memphis-based company said after markets closed Thursday that fourth-quarter profits had more than tripled, to $97.4 million. But earnings per share of 69 cents were 12 cents shy of Wall Street's latest estimate for the quarter, making Union Planters the only one of the nation's 25 largest bank companies to miss expectations by more than a penny.

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