Walter V. Shipley, chairman and chief executive officer of Chase Manhattan Corp., said Tuesday that his bank is not under any pressure to find a merger partner, despite the recent wave of bank consolidations.
Speaking at Chase's annual shareholders meeting, Mr. Shipley said that "size and scale are important" but that the $366 billion-asset company has "all the essential ingredients" to compete.
Chase has been the nation's largest bank since the 1996 merger of the old Chase and Chemical Banking Corp. But two deals announced in April - Citicorp's plan to merge with Travelers Group Inc., and NationsBank Corp.'s deal to partner with BankAmerica Corp. - would create two even larger banks.
Nevertheless, the consolidation frenzy has not altered Chase's strategy, Mr. Shipley said.
"Why would we feel under pressure?" he said. "The others were under pressure. We're not."
Mr. Shipley acknowledged that there has been plenty of market speculation about Chase's next move. And "we are constantly looking for opportunities," he said.
But he would not comment on persistent rumors about possible merger discussions with Merrill Lynch & Co. or a potential bid for Mellon Bank Corp., the Pittsburgh bank that is fending off an unsolicited offer from Bank of New York Co.
Mr. Shipley did lay to rest one shareholder's question about whether Chase would sell out to a foreign bank. "No way," he said.
Chase's mix of corporate, wholesale, and consumer banking businesses is powerful enough to stand on its own, he added. "We have a combination of strengths few, if any, companies can match."
According to bank analysts, Chase's earnings have been fueled by global corporate banking for the last several quarters. The company is one of the biggest underwriters of corporate debt, and has a growing merger advisory practice. But it lacks the ability to underwrite equities, which would help it compete with Wall Street firms.
The need for this underwriting capability feeds the constant rumors about talks with Merrill and other investment banks, analysts said.
"I think their prospects right now are good without a deal," said David Berry, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. "But I think to meet their long-run objectives, they will have to do one."
This year Chase is aiming to reach an 18% or higher return on equity, and a 10% revenue jump. At the end of 1997 its return on equity was 19.5%, and its revenue grew about 7%.
A restructuring program designed to cut expenses and redirect resources to growth businesses should help, Mr. Shipley said. The bank took a $510 million pretax charge in the first quarter to cover the elimination of 4,500 jobs.
Chase continues to feel the heat of turmoil in Asia. Mr. Shipley said about 30 of the bank's American and Chinese employees were evacuated from Jakarta to Singapore, last Friday because of rioting and looting in the Indonesian capital. But Asia remains "a long- term region of growth" for the bank, he said.
Chase's credit exposure in Korea, Thailand, and Indonesia was $7.5 billion at the end of March, a figure that was "higher than we wish it was," said Marc J. Shapiro, Chase's vice chairman for finance and risk management.