Mergers shuffled the rankings of the world's largest banks last year.

The biggest gainer: London-based HSBC Holdings PLC, which climbed 14 notches to 17th place, according to the American Banker's annual survey of the 500 biggest banks by assets. (Tables begin on page 8A).

Last July, HSBC acquired the $111 billion-asset Midland Bank PLC in London, then the world's 47th-largest banking company.

That boosted HSBC's assets to $258.1 billion at the end of last year, from $160.3 billion a year earlier.

BankAmerica Makes Strides

The No. 2 gainer was BankAmerica Corp., San Francisco, which moved up 13 places to rank as the world's 32d-biggest bank.

BankAmerica acquired $76 billion-asset Security Pacific Corp., Los Angeles, the world's 72d-largest banking company in April 1992, boosting its total assets to $179.4 billion, up from $114 billion at yearend 1991.

Banca di Roma was the No. 3 gainer, moving to 55th place after a merger with $61 billion-asset Banco di Santo Spirito in August 1992 boosted its total assets to $102 billion from $69.5 billion. The survey also found that several banks slumped significantly in the ranks, especially banks in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Italy, and France, after their assets fell sharply.

Exchange Rate Woes

The drop stemmed mainly from exchange rate fluctuations that drove down the value of their currencies against the dollar and from writeoffs on bad lending.

Among the top losers were 82d-ranked Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken, Stockholm, which slid 11 notches.

Scandinaviska's assets fell to $68.4 billion from $81.1 billion in 1991 after the Swedish krona fell 21.7% against the dollar and the bank had writeoffs resulting from the Swedish economic crisis.

Credito Italiano, Milan, fell six notches to 74th place, after its assets fell to $72.3 billion from $84.0 billion, largely because of a 22% fall in the Italian lira against the dollar. Assets in liras actually rose 7%.

Changing Capital Positions

Rankings in the survey also show significant improvements as well as deteriorations in capital ratios.

The bank that most improved its risked-based capital ratios was 75th ranked Bankers Trust New York Corp. It boosted its ratio 2.75% to 13.65% in 1992 from 10.90% in 1991.

Chemical Banking Corp., New York, the world's 39th-biggest bank, raised its capital ratio 2.41% to 11.54% at yearend from 9.13% in 1991. Citicorp, New York, rated No. 26, improved 2.14% to 9.50% from 7.46%.

J.P. Morgan & Co., Chuo Trust, Tokyo and Yasuda Trust also significantly improved their capital ratios.

European banks were hardest hit by weakening capital ratios, according to the survey.

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