Internal release of CoreStates Financial Corp.'s cost-cutting plan is expected as early as today, and a Natwest Securities analyst expects it to set a goal of realizing - by the end of next year - annual savings of $80 million, or 6% of 1994 overhead.
The plan, expected to be publicly announced by the end of this week, is likely to cut at least 1,500 positions from the Philadelphia-based bank's payroll of 15,706, analyst John A. Heffern said.
CoreStates' share price rose 75 cents on Friday to $30.875, a 52-week high, after rising $1 on Thursday.
At 61.76%, CoreStates' 1994 ratio of operating expenses to operating revenues was 153 basis points higher than that of its 26-bank regional peer group, according to Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc.
Amid Wall Street criticisms that the bank was overstaffed and its acquisitions overly expensive, the $28 billion-asset CoreStates last fall announced a program it called Best - for Building Exceptional Service Together.
As CoreStates has worked to develop specific plans and targets, most analysts have shied away from predicting the dollar amount of savings it would seek - a restraint the bank has encouraged.
But Mr. Heffern now has published an $80 million estimate, and he contends management understands it must unveil a substantial program.
Pointing to the limping Shawmut National Corp., which last month agreed to be acquired by Fleet Financial Group Inc., the analyst warned: "In this age of industry consolidation, managements without credibility can become managements without franchises."
Mr. Heffern said "the folks at CoreStates know this and will deliver the goods right on schedule." CoreStates was contacted, but declined to comment.
As a result of expected cost cuts, Mr. Heffern estimated earnings per share this year would be $3.55, compared to the industry consensus of $3.39, as published by First Call Corp. He predicted EPS should reach $4.10 next year, compared with a consensus forecast of $3.78.
In addition to its core banking services, CoreStates has a corporate and general trust business, an investment banking subsidiary, and an investment advisory business.
The cost cutting likely will include consolidating back-office operations, and perhaps shedding the corporate trust unit, said Anthony Davis, an analyst with Dean Witter Reynolds Inc.
CoreStates now recognizes it must focus on internal development rather than on acquisitions, added Mr. Davis. This is evidenced by the bank's decision not to buy Chemical Banking Corp.'s 84 southern and central New Jersey branches, which PNC Bank Corp. instead bought for $504 million earlier this month.
Like Natwest, Mr. Davis has a "buy" on the stock, predicting that earnings growth this year will reach 13%.
Despite CoreStates' hefty price-to-book value - 186% compared to the regional bank average of 155% - Mr. Heffern said the bank is a "buy" because it should enjoy a rising return on equity.
The company has excess capital and should institute a share repurchase program this year, Mr. Heffern added. His 52-week price range for the stock is between $33 and $35.