Prudential Securities analyst Ruchi Madan on Thursday downgraded Barnett Banks Inc. to "hold" from "buy."
The stock fell tktk to close at tktk amid a tktk% general decline of the broader Standard & Poor's bank index.
Ms. Madan based her downgrade of Barnett Banks on price. She said the bank's shares are unlikely to rise more than 10% in price from current levels.
Nonetheless, Ms. Madan remained bullish on the bank's longer-term prospects.
"We continue to believe Barnett will be a superior performer," Ms. Madan said.
Barnett is among a handful of banking companies that have the systems in place to analyze customer behavior and profitability, the analyst said.
The analyst said that over the long haul, the bank is likely to reduce its branch system because of less expensive delivery systems such as ATMs, phones, and supermarkets.
Additionally, she cited the increased revenues from nonbank businesses, which are growing at 10% to 15% annually.
"The Equicredit and indirect sales finance operation that Barnett opened in Charlotte will be followed in the next few months" with such ventures in other cities, said Anthony R. Davis, a bank analyst at Dean Witter Reynolds.
Mr. Davis, who downgraded the stock to "neutral" from "accumulate" on February 15, said that Barnett could start seeing heightened competition in Florida.
"The temperature in the kitchen in Florida is raised," he said, because of the increased presence of First Union Corp., NationsBank Corp., and SunTrust Banks Inc. "Barnett can no longer beat up on their southeastern competitors, and for that reason, I'm willing to give them a modest premium and not a demonstrable one."
Other analysts believe Barnett still has room to run. Dick Bove, a bank analyst at Raymond James, maintains an "accumulate" rating on Barnett.
"The key thing, which has driven bank stocks higher relative to the market in the past six to 12 months, has been the fact that banks are returning capital to stockholders at a fairly rapid clip," Mr. Bove said.
Separately, Ms. Madan raised her earnings estimate and target price on the Bank of Boston Corp., and boosted her target price on First Tennessee National Corp.
Bank of Boston's stock rose tktk to close at tktk, while First Tennessee rose tktk to close at tktk.