the latest quarter.
Per-share profits of 49 cents, reported Thursday, missed analysts' consensus estimate by 5 cents. Net income totaled $29.9 million -- 33% more than a year earlier.
Analysts said a series of acquisitions over the past year have taken their toll on the $12.7 billion-asset thrift. The disappointing results for Commercial Federal's fiscal fourth quarter are likely to aid an effort led by Franklin Mutual Advisers, its largest institutional shareholder, to force a sale of the company, the analysts said.
This just adds fuel to the fire, said Heather Rosenkoetter, a bank analyst at Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co. in Arlington, Va.
Commercial Federal has fairly regularly missed earning estimates in the past year, according to David E. Mudd, a bank analyst at Howe Barnes Investments in Chicago. That's certainly frustrating for investors.''
Despite promises to raise noninterest income by cross-selling more products to its customer base, Commercial Federal's fee income declined 5.8% in the most recent period, to $22.9 million. Expenses crept up 12.5%, to $62.1 million.
Chairman and chief executive officer William A. Fitzgerald, who was not available to comment Thursday, said in a statement that the company is reviewing its operations and looking for ways to gain efficiencies without reducing the level of our customer service.
In the last 12 months the company has added 82 branches, $3.2 billion of assets, and $2.5 billion of deposits through its acquisitions of Des Moines-based AmerUs Bank, First Colorado Bancorp Inc. of Lakewood, and Midland First Financial Corp. of Lee's Summit, Mo. But the ambitious deal making has caused problems.
There's a shortfall on both the revenue and expense sides, Mr. Mudd said.
Last week Franklin Mutual Advisers, a 7.7% stakeholder, filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission saying it would seek potential buyers for the thrift. The filing also said that Franklin Mutual would start discussing a possible sale with other Commercial Federal shareholders.
The latest quarter is just another indication'' that Commercial Federal should sell, said Raymond Garea, senior vice president of Short Hills, N.J.-based Franklin Mutual. The thrift's acquisitions systematically diminished shareholder values. No business plan would benefit shareholders as much as a sale, Mr. Garea said. He added that he does not believe Commercial Federal's management is interested in shareholder value.
Operating earnings for the full fiscal year were $119.5 million, up 10%. Annual profits per share of $1.99 missed the analysts' consensus by 2 cents.
Mr. Garea said Thursday that since Franklin Mutual started its push for a sale several other large shareholders have indicated their support. He would not say who these shareholders are, however.
We continue to feel very strongly about this, Mr. Garea said. We don't do these things just to pick on people.
Mr. Fitzgerald of Commercial Federal has said he and the board agree that the thrift should remain independent.