Rating agencies took the following actions last week:
Banc One Corp.: Moody's Investors Service Inc. placed the long-term ratings of Banc One and some subsidiaries under review for possible upgrade. The rating agency said that about $1.8 billion of debt is affected.
Moody's said that the review recognizes the company's success at expanding its banking franchise via acquisitions, while continuing to produce consistently strong financial results.
According to Moody's, the ratings under review include: Banc One's A1 rating for senior debt, its A2 rating for subordinated debt.
First Union Corp.: Standard & Poor's Corp. raised its ratings on First Union.
The banking company's senior debt was raised one notch to A from A-minus. Subordinated debt was raised to A-minus from BBB-plus. Preferred stock rose to BBB-plus from BBB.
Finally, commercial paper went to A-1 from A-2, putting it into a category that allows increased buying by mutual funds.
S&P said said that the the corporation's long-term ratings outlook is stable. About $2.6 billion of outstanding long-term debt is affected by the rating changes.
"The rating actions reflect the improvements in profitability, liquidity, and operational diversity provided by recent mergers and acquisitions," said S&P.
The rating agency added that First Union's ongoing, if sometimes financially aggressive, expansion campaign has produced the ninth-largest banking organization in the country, with a broad and deep franchise across seven southeastern states.
In the past 12 months, First Union's acquisitions have expanded its territory into the neighboring states of Virginia, Maryland, and Tennessee and strengthened its existing market positions in Georgia and South Carolina.
S&P expects First Union's profitability to remain on "an elevated plateau." The ratings agency expects the bank to continue to improve efficiency by cutting costs.