Standard & Poor's Corp. upgraded Bank of Boston Corp. Tuesday, citing its improved asset quality and profitability.

Ratings were increased on the corporation's debt, preferred stock, and commercial paper and on certificates of deposit and debt issues backed by letters of credit of its lead subsidiary, First National Bank of Boston.

Bank of Boston "has substantially lessened its overall asset risk profile" by taking high levels of chargeoffs, writing down real estate, and reducing holdings of commercial real estate and highly leveraged transactions, Standard & Poor's said.

Recovery Seen Accomplished

"This provides additional, objective evidence that the bank has recovered," said Peter Manning, Bank of Boston's chief financial officer.

Bank of Boston had been upgraded this year, a bank official said, by four other credit rating agencies: Moody's Investors Service, Thomson BankWatch, IBCA Banking Analysis, and Dominion Bond Rating.

The Standard & Poor's upgrading does not reflect improvement of the New England economy, said Glen Grabelsky, associate director of S&P. "We still see a lot of weakness in the New England economy," he said.

The company was helped by its not being purely a regional bank, Mr. Grabelsky said.

Bank of Boston Corp.'s senior debt was upgraded to BBB, from BBB-minus; subordinated debt to an investment-grade BBB-minus, from BB-plus; preferred stock to BB-plus, from BB; and commercial paper to A2, from A3.

Mr. Manning said Bank of Boston's improved credit standing in the last year has reopened the door for selling longer-term certificates of deposit to institutions.

The company has built capital by selling equity and retaining earnings. It raised $223 million through a preferred stock offering in August and $147 million through an earlier common stock sale. It earned $189 million in the first three quarters of this year, compared with a $120 million net loss for the same period in 1991.

Bank of Boston stock surged on the upgrading, rising 87.5 cents a share, to $23.875. This is more than double the $11.50 share price at yearend 1991.

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