Citicorp shares drifted lower Monday on news of a downgrading by Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, a firm that had championed the stock since the early part of the decade.
DLJ analyst Thomas K. Brown downgraded Citicorp to "market perform" from "buy," saying the company's consumer and credit card divisions are "mediocre" compared with those of other large banks.
Banks fall into three categories: "leaders, laggards and losers,-and I put Citicorp in the laggard category," said Mr. Brown.
The rating action was a turning point for DLJ, just four months after Mr. Brown took over coverage of Citicorp from Frank DeSantis, who was promoted to head of research. Mr. DeSantis was virtually alone in giving a "buy" rating to Citicorp shares when they were trading at less than $10.
In trading Monday, Citicorp's stock fell 62.5 cents a share, to $126.375, as bank stocks generally lost ground to industrial companies.
Mr. Brown said that other banking companies, such as Chase Manhattan Corp., are expertly segmenting their customer base and varying products and pricing to accommodate them. Citicorp, he said, is using less advanced techniques that limit profitability.
Citicorp trades at a higher multiple than several banks that are likely to post stronger growth rates, Mr. Brown said, including Chase, Wells Fargo & Co., and First Bank System Inc.
A more bullish view on Citicorp came from George M. Salem, analyst at Gerard Klauer and Mattison, who raised his price target to $155 from $130. By taking a negative view now, "you're missing the boat," he said.
Mr. Salem noted strength in the money-center's emerging markets division, and he pointed out that many negative factors-including volatile interest rates, interstate banking restrictions, capital shortage, and loss of market share to regionals-are gone or diminished.