Standard Federal Bank expects to report on Thursday that it had record earnings in 1994. But stock analysts are worried over the shrinking of interest-rate margins that the Troy, Mich., thrift has been experiencing along with other major portfolio lenders.
Thomas J. Ricketts, chairman and president, said, "We've never had a year like this. Everything is at a record high." But he acknowledged that the company's quarterly earnings were likely to fall short of analysts' expectations.
Last week, Thomas O'Donnell, an analyst with Smith Barney Inc., reduced his earnings estimates for Standard for 1994 and 1995 but said he is expecting a rebound in 1996. "We are forecasting a net interest margin of 3.11% for 1994, compared with 3.10% in 1993," he wrote. "As short rates continue to rise in early 1995 and the yield curve continues to flatten, we expect the margin to narrow to an average of 2.80% for 1995."
Mr. O'Donnell expects earnings to bounce back in 1996, fueled by continued asset growth and good expense control, even if there is no improvement in interest margins.
In an interview with Dow Jones, Mr. Ricketts said he was uncomfortable with estimates of $3.90 a share for this year and would feel better with a range of $3.50 to $3.70. Mr. O'Donnell's reduced estimate is $3.69.
Standard Federal has been an unusual success story in the mortgage business, building loan volume during the refi boom of 1993 by maintaining an un-thriftlike focus on fixed-rate loans when most thrifts were on the sidelines, and continuing that focus during the slump of last year, when thrifts returned to the spotlight with adjustable-rate loans.
Acquisitions have helped Standard Federal build its assets over the last two decades. Now, some analysts believe, it could be a takeover target itself. Mr. Ricketts said he believed the company's shares are undervalued even at the lower end of earnings estimates, a view that has not escaped Wall Street.
Mr. O'Donnell wrote last week: "We wouldn't rule out Standard Federal being acquired by a regional commercial bank." And Michael Moran, with Roney & Co., referred to it as a "logical value" for suitors.