With on-line brokerage stocks hot, Fleet Financial Group's Quick & Reilly unit carries hidden value for investors, according to one analyst.
Quick & Reilly, which includes a discount brokerage and the Internet brokerage SureTrade, is worth at least $5 billion to $8 billion, said Edward R. Najarian, senior banking analyst at Wheat First Union.
A sizable chunk of that value is not factored in to the current share price of Fleet stock, Mr. Najarian maintained.
"If you carve out the value of Quick & Reilly," he said, "the remaining share price of Fleet is trading at a 20% to 25% discount" to other superregional banking companies with assets of more than $50 billion.
As a result, "the Fleet franchise appears very inexpensive and a very attractive value relative to its peers," Mr. Najarian said.
Astute investors are likely to spot the value of Quick & Reilly soon, he said. He said that will "prove to be a substantial positive catalyst for Fleet stock."
Fleet shares rose $1.9375 a share on Tuesday, to $43.0625.
The Standard & Poor's bank index lost 0.48%, but the Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.54%. The Nasdaq bank index added 0.61%, and the S&P 500 was down 0.65%.
Chase Manhattan Corp. was up 37.5 cents, to $87.25; Citigroup Inc. gained $1.375, to $75.375; and J.P. Morgan & Co. lost 18.75 cents, to $129.3125.
Merrill Lynch & Co. banking analyst William Katz said he sees takeover speculation returning to the market, which could push up share prices of some regional banks.
Takeover targets for larger regional banking companies listed by analysts are First Virginia Banks, Falls Church, Va.; Mercantile Bancorp, St. Louis; Old Kent Financial Corp., Grand Rapids, Mich.; and One Valley Bancorp, Charleston, W.Va.
"You have potentially deteriorating earnings momentum, a widening valuation gap, and we're getting closer to comfort with year- 2000 issues," Mr. Katz said. He said these factors could spark another round of consolidation among banks with market capitalizations of $1 billion to $10 billion.
"The big questions are, who would buy them and what would they pay," Mr. Katz said. "I generally think franchise values are going down, not up, for the typical mid-cap bank."
Shares of Gold Banc Corp. were up 15.625 cents, to $14, after Anthony Polini at Advest Inc. raised his earnings per share estimates.
Mr. Polini said he expects operating income at Gold Banc to rise by 25% in 1999 and 17% in 2000, and he predicted that operating earnings per share will be up 30% in 1999 and 21% in 2000 "as improved operating efficiency contributes to record earnings."
Mr. Polini also issued a "table-pounding" buy sign for Republic Security Financial Corp., saying that acquisitions are yielding benefits ahead of schedule and that an improved loan and deposit mix are positioning the company for growth.
Its shares fell 6.25 cents, to $9.
Shares of WFS Financial jumped 14%, to $9.375, after the company reported first-quarter net income of $11.6 million versus a loss of $13.3 million in the same period a year ago. The automobile finance company also said it would buy back up to 500,000 of its 25.7 million shares outstanding.