PNC Bank Corp. on Tuesday agreed to buy troubled First Eastern Corp. in a stock deal valued at $330 million.
The nation's 11th-largest bank company separately announced that it would sell $130 million of problem real estate assets to a partnership organized by Goldman, Sachs & Co. PNC said the transaction would not affect its bottom line.
Wall Street reacted positively to the announcements, despite the fact that PNC is paying a hefty two times book value for First Eastern. PNC's share price rose 87.5 cents, to $29.50, in late trading Tuesday. In over-the-counter trading, First Eastern's stock soared $5 a share, to $25.
Large 1991-92 Losses
First Eastern eked out $1.1 million of profits in the first half of the year, rebounding from back-to-back losses in 1991 and 1992 that totaled $63.6 million. The Wilkes-Barre, Pa., company's lead bank continues to operate under a formal agreement with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
But Thomas H. O'Brien, PNC's chairman and chief executive, said First Eastern should boost earnings per share almost immediately. The deal is expected to close in 1994's first half
Mr. O'Brien cited market share gains, "rapidly improving" credit quality, and potential for cost savings to explain his company's strong bid.
First Eastern controls $2.1 billion of assets and 51 branches in the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre area. The deal will let Pittsburgh-based PNC boost market share in the anthracite coal region of northeastern Pennsylvania to about one-third of deposits.
PNC said it was uncertain whether First Eastern's top officer, Frederick A. Deal, would stay after the merger. The executive was recruited last August to turn around First Eastern. Since becoming president and chief executive, he has sold loan assets and a securities subsidiary, cut 150 jobs, and completed a secondary stock offering.
In discussions with analysts, PNC projected annual savings from the merger of about $33 million, or roughly one-third of First Eastern's annual noninterest expense.
The deal requires approval by regulators and First Eastern shareholders.
Busy Merger Arena
Despite many years of economic decline, northeastern Pennsylvania has been an active locale for bank mergers in recent years. James M. Schutz, an analyst at Chicago Corp., said the First Eastern deal virtually completes consolidation in the area.
Outside bank companies - including PNC, Mellon Bank Corp., Meridian Bancorp., UJB Financial Corp., and First Fidelity Bancorp. - now dominate the scene.
Assets Discounted 21.5%-Plus
Sally Pope Davis, a Goldman analyst in New York, said PNC had made no secret of its desire to expand from northeastern Pennsylvania into neighboring New Jersey.
Separately, PNC said sale of problem realty assets to Whitehall Street Fund, the Goldman partnership, should be completed in the third quarter. The assets, a mix of delinquent loans and foreclosed properties, are being sold for $102 million, a 21.5% discount from current carrying value.
William H. Callihan, head of investor relations for PNC, said additional writedowns had been taken earlier on the assets, meaning original book value was more than $130 million.