A Philadelphia banking company that has hitched its future to the Internet is experiencing a stock surge befitting a high-tech firm.
Shares of USABanc.com, formerly USABancshares, have almost doubled in recent weeks, reaching a high of $15.25 this month. An average of 613,000 shares have traded hands daily in July, up from the 250,000-share average for the company in the previous three months.
At the market's close Tuesday, USABanc shares were trading at $12.125. In April its stock price was about $6.
Kenneth L. Tepper, the president and chief executive officer of the $250 million-asset company, would not comment on the recent surge because of an upcoming secondary offering. But sources familiar with USABanc said increased interest in the stock is linked to the bank's ambitious on-line plans.
In May, the company took the symbolic step of changing its name, declaring itself the first Federal Reserve-regulated holding company to go "dot-com."
USABanc also has a partnership with on-line bookseller Amazon.com to offer books to its bank customers. And it started a Web site called CDEnergy.com, which lets customers set rates on certificates of deposit.
On CDEnergy.com, the bank posts an above-market ceiling rate and asks people how low a rate they would accept and still buy the CD. After an hour of bidding, the certificate goes to the lowest bidder.
In its offering prospectus, in which USABanc said it hopes to raise up to $34.5 million, the company said it will use advertising to build a national on-line customer base. The bank plans to advertise on CNBC and MSNBC and in The Wall Street Journal and New York Times.
The market apparently has been impressed with these plans. USABanc shares now trade at 37 times earnings, well above the average multiple for a bank its size.
And the surge has come even as other Internet bank stocks struggled. NetBank Inc. of Atlanta, for example, has shed about half its market capitalization since the beginning of May, when adjusted for splits.
Still, not everyone is rushing to the stock.
Though conceding that USABanc.com's Internet strategy "is an interesting concept," analyst Cassandra Toroian of Ryan, Beck & Co. in Livingston, N.J., said that only time would tell whether the on-line push will be a money-maker.
"For anyone out there, whether it will be a profitable way to operate a bank still remains to be seen," she said.