Two analysts downgraded shares of Bank One Corp. on Thursday, one day after the Chicago banking company reported a surprise fourth-quarter loss of 44 cents per share.
The quarterly earnings report did not do much immediate damage to Bank One's shares Wednesday, as most observers said they thought that the management could turn the company around. But some market watchers expressed doubt about Bank One's near-term ability to generate profits. Nancy Bush, a bank analyst at Prudential Securities Inc., cut the Chicago company two tiers, to "hold" from "strong buy," and advised investors in a note "to take the money off the table and watch this one from the sidelines."
Henry C. Dickson of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. reduced his rating to "market perform" from "buy."
Shares of Bank One fell 25 cents, or 0.66%, to $37.75 on Thursday - a generally bad day for bank stocks. The American Banker index of top 50 banks was down 1.64%, and its index of 225 banks lost 1.5%. Standard & Poor's 500 index and the Nasdaq composite index rose 1.39% and 3.21%, respectively.
"The quarter seemed to lack any kind of real momentum on the revenue side," Ms. Bush said of Bank One. "We wonder if there is not a bit of 'restructuring fatigue' that has set in as the company has experienced one of the more radical and comprehensive reshaping of any in our memory."
Ms. Bush said in a research report that her concerns were related to credit quality and a $385 million loss at First USA Inc., the company's Delaware-based credit card unit.
Ms. Bush was more positive about the company's future. "This stock has been good to us, and we still believe in [Bank One CEO] Jamie Dimon's methods and mindset," she wrote.
Other analysts were not so concerned about the near term. Susan Roth of Credit Suisse First Boston said she still had confidence in Mr. Dimon and maintained her "buy." David Stumpf of A.G. Edwards in St. Louis reiterated his "maintain."
Mr. Stumpf agrees, however, that Bank One's problems go beyond credit issues and said in his note that "some improvement in First USA's revenue run-rate is necessary in order for the company to meet its earnings targets for 2001."
Mr. Dickson, who wrote that his downgrade reflects lower earnings expectations for the year ahead, added that he thought it would take Bank One longer than anticipated to reestablish momentum.
Though most analysts said they are impressed with Mr. Dimon's struggle to get the bank back on a more profitable track, they give the company lukewarm ratings.