Add Riggs National Corp. to those disappointed by Walt Disney Co.'s decision to scrap plans for a historic theme park in northern Virginia.
Last week's announcement that Disney was backing down because of heated community opposition has dampened Riggs' short-term prospects for selling the 900-acre farm it owns near the entrance of the proposed project. The sale of Marsh Farms, whose value was written down after Riggs repossessed it, was expected to fetch a premium from a developer.
At least one analyst has cut his 1995 earnings estimate because plans for the park were scuttled. "I would say that any selling price would have to go down from here," said John Mason, banking analyst at Interstate/Johnson Lane in Atlanta. "We were looking for a [pretax] gain of as much as $10 million or more for Riggs next year."
On Friday, he slashed his 1995 estimate from 82 cents a share to 75 cents solely because of the Disney announcement. In trading Friday the company's shares closed at $10.187, down 31.2 cents.
"We continue to have interest [expressed] in the property," said David Lesser, executive vice president and general counsel at Riggs, the largest independent bank in Washington.
He could not say what the current value of the property is, or speculate on a possible sale or price. However, Mr. Lesser added, "Overall, it is an insignificant percentage of our assets."
Mr. Mason, who visited the property, last year had cited the possible sale of Marsh Farms as an example of how writedowns in Riggs' extensive Washington-area real estate portfolio left room for earnings surprises. "The Marsh Farms would have been the only major earnings surprise they had, unless they sell the chairman's airplane," he said.
Others analysts disagreed, saying they generally had not calculated such asset sales into earnings projections. "Even if it was a potential gain, it was a one-time deal," noted Denis Laplante, banking analyst at Fox-Pitt Kelton.
Michael Coiro, analyst at Johnston, Lemon & Co. in Washington, said his 90-cent estimate for next year is unchanged. However, he said that as the region's property values continue to recover, so does Riggs' prospects for earnings surprises. "This was kind of what I called a hidden asset for Riggs," he said. "They've already written down a lot of these things to zero. I know that management has been very conservative about the potential [gains]."
It is not clear how analysts generally viewed the impact of future asset sales on Riggs' earnings. Projections ranged from $1.34 to 71 cents a share, with a mean projection of $1.01 in 1995, according to Zacks Investment Research.
In other developments, analysts noted that Riggs had recently repurchased $19.1 million of convertible debt that is sold as part of a recapitalization plan in 1992. The 7.5% coupon securities were apparently bought at par. Analysts estimate it could help earnings by about a penny a share in 1995.