BankAmerica Corp. bought back five million of its own shares in the first month of its repurchase program, Lewis W. Coleman, chief financial officer, said Tuesday in New York.
"We have been fairly aggressive in the market on nearly every trading day," he said during the San Francisco company's presentation at the 25th annual symposium of the Bank & Financial Analysts Association.
BankAmerica's directors last month authorized the buying in of $1.9 billion of its common stock by the end of 1997. So far, the company has probably spent over $225 million.
"It's an impressive effort," said Lawrence W. Cohn of PaineWebber Inc. "They are ahead of expectations," added George M. Salem of Gerard Klauer Mattison & Co.
In afternoon trading, BankAmerica's stock price was unchanged at $47.75.
Recently, there has been some criticism leveled at publicly traded companies for not actively following through on stock repurchases after announcements of such programs bolster the stock.
Repurchase programs are highly popular on Wall Street since they support stock prices and boost returns on investment. Once rare in banking, they have proliferated over the past two years as a means for the industry to manage its excess capital.
Mr. Coleman said the bank's buying has likely accounted for 15% to 20% of the stock's daily volume since the program was announced. But he cautioned analysts not to assume that the bank's buying activity will continue at this pace.
In other news, S.G. Warburg & Co. cut its rating on Keycorp to hold from buy, noting that its shares have outperformed other regional banks' this year and are now "fairly valued."
The firm reduced its 1995 earning projection for Keycorp to $3.60 from $3.75, and its 1996 estimate to $3.90 from $4.10, noting a smaller earning asset base after the bank restructured its securities portfolio to reduce interest sensitivity.
Warburg set a price target of $30 on the stock of the Cleveland-based regional, which was trading at $28.375.
The downgrade came on the heels of the announcement that Keycorp, which has $67 billion in assets, would acquire AutoFinance Group Inc. for $325 million, or about 3.8-times book value.
In a presentation prepared for delivery at the analysts symposium Tuesday afternoon, Keycorp executives outlined a five year strategy emphasizing community banking, private banking, national consumer finance and corporate banking.
The officials said the bank is testing ways to customize branch offices to the targeted customer segments, automating routine transactions. They spoke of a period of investment in 1995 and the first half of 1996 that would pay off in the second half of 1996 in double digit earning growth.
Also on Tuesday, Thomas H. Hanley of CS First Boston added Midlantic Corp. to his coverage list with a buy rating, predicting the Edison, N.J. banking company would be bought within a year.
Stephen Kleege in New York contributed to this article.