In completing its acquisition of Barnett Banks Inc., NationsBank Corp. expects to sell fewer deposits and get paid less for them than it had anticipated.
In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing last week, NationsBank said it has proposed a $2.8 billion deposit divestiture to allay Justice Department concerns about market concentration. It estimated the premium on that sale at 15%.
NationsBank had previously said the deposit selloff would be $3.5 billion, and analysts had been assuming a 20% premium.
Adding up those numbers, analysts said massive layoffs would have to follow if NationsBank is to achieve the cost reductions it had projected in its takeover of Florida's biggest banking company.
One analyst said the job cuts could go as high as 15,000, which NationsBank vigorously denied.
Charlotte, N.C.-based NationsBank agreed to buy Barnett in August for $15.5 billion, the biggest acquisition price ever for a U.S. bank. The SEC filing detailed "merger and integration" costs that are expected to reach $700 million.
The planned deposit sale was lowered, said a NationsBank spokeswoman, because SouthTrust Corp. of Alabama has agreed to buy from Barnett several branches it had acquired Oct. 1 from First of America Bank Corp.
With less income due from divestitures, analysts suspect that NationsBank will have to let more people go to reduce Barnett's operating costs by 55%, as it promised Wall Street.
NationsBank has not revealed its personnel plans. It has 8,000 employees in Florida and will be taking on 19,000 full-timers and 3,000 part-timers from Jacksonville, Fla.-based Barnett.
"I estimate they would have to get rid of 15,000 people," said Richard X. Bove, banking industry analyst with Raymond James & Associates, St. Petersburg, Fla.
Other analysts expect extensive reductions but did not put a number on them.
"Any time there is massive overlap like there is between these two companies, you can expect heavy job loss," said Nancy A. Bush, associate director of research at Brown Brothers, Harriman & Co.
NationsBank Southeast region spokesman Scott Scredon called Mr. Bove's number "clearly and without a doubt wrong. We wouldn't be able to run the bank if we made those kinds of cuts."
He said the 55% elimination of Barnett's costs-$915 million-"will come from the two companies combined, not just NationsBank's or Barnett's Florida operations. We're not going to cut the heart out of Barnett. It is one of the best-run banks in the country and we hope to keep it that way."
A Barnett spokeswoman said the job-cut announcement should be out by the end of this month, after an "assessment team" completes its work. In its filing, NationsBank said it set aside $340 million for severance packages and "exit costs related to contract terminations."
SBC Warburg Dillon Read analyst Anthony R. Davis said he expects the merger to reduce the bank's capital by $200 million. He said the bank could realize gains of approximately $500 million from selling branches and Barnett's part of the HomeSide mortgage joint venture to National Australia Bank.
NationsBank's saving estimates could come under further pressure after its review of Barnett's accounting practices, which the company said in its SEC filing is not complete.
Mr. Bove said Barnett "overstated its earnings for the last six months before the merger," which he attributed to "incredibly aggressive" assumptions about subprime mortgages.
NationsBank, which also operates subprime finance businesses, does not use the same gain-on-sale accounting and may have to rein in Barnett's earnings by 10% as the companies align their accounting practices, Mr. Bove said.