Bank One Corp.'s chief executive officer said again last week that the newly created megabank is not likely to make large acquisitions anytime soon.

"I don't see us doing any major transactions in the next 18 months to two years," John B. McCoy said.

He refused to comment on a recent market rumor that Bank One was negotiating to buy Mercantile Bancorp. of St. Louis. The rumor drove up Mercantile's stock more than 6%.

Mr. McCoy had said in June that his company probably would not become involved in another major merger deal soon. If it did, analysts have said, its own stock price would probably drop.

Speaking with reporters after addressing business executives at a luncheon here, Mr. McCoy said he expects to be preoccupied with integrating the old Banc One Corp. and First Chicago NBD Corp. The two merged Oct. 2 to form Bank One Corp.

But in a few years, he said, more mergers will create big banking companies that Bank One will want to buy.

For instance, he said, a hypothetical merger of PNC Bank Corp. of Pittsburgh and Fleet Financial Group of Boston would create a company of an interesting size for Bank One. Those companies' assets now total about $175 billion.

One that got away was Wells Fargo & Co. of San Francisco. Mr. McCoy said he would have "stood on his head" to buy Wells, which merged Nov. 2 with Norwest Corp. The new Wells has about $200 billion of assets, the new Bank One $240 billion.

He said he would also have liked to have bought either NBD Bancorp or First Chicago Corp. before they merged three years ago.

As for buying smaller banking companies, potential targets are plentiful, Mr. McCoy said.

The new Bank One operates in 13 states. "Everyone asks me, 'Where do you want to go next?'" Mr. McCoy said. "I want to go to a place with growth."

Asked to discuss fourth-quarter earnings, he said he told analysts this autumn to lower their estimates. He is comfortable, he said, with estimates of 86 to 88 cents a share in operating profits. Operating profits of the old Banc One and First Chicago NBD totaled 72 cents in last year's fourth quarter.

The consensus of analysts is that Bank One will earn 89 cents on an operating basis in the current quarter, according to First Call Corp., Boston. But the banking company is widely expected to take merger-related and other writedowns that could nearly wipe out net earnings.

At least some of the charges would be related to a money-losing automated teller machine program Banc One announced last year. The company planned to add 18,000 ATMs, many inside retailers and convenience stores, but the program was halted at midyear.

Mr. McCoy said the fourth-quarter writedown will be the last for the program. In all, 5,000 ATMs were added, he said, and the program will "break even" in 1999.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.