Shares of MBNA Corp. shrugged off a downdraft in the stock market Wednesday, helped by an upgrade from Alex. Brown & Co.
The stock rose $1.375 to $36.25 after analyst Mark Alpert raised his rating to "strong buy" from "buy," saying the credit card specialist's loss rate has stabilized.
Amid widespread worries about the impact on the credit card business of rising consumer bankruptcies, MBNA reported a loss rate of 3.38% in the third quarter, off from 3.46% in the second quarter. At the same time, Mr. Alpert pointed out, the Newark, Del., company added $4.2 billion in receivables during the quarter, building its portfolio of managed loans to $34.7 billion.
The combination of growth and improved credit quality "reinforces our belief that the company will be able to sustain a minimum of 25% earnings per share growth through 1998," Mr. Alpert said.
Mr. Alpert said MBNA's marketing expertise and strategy put it in a different category from other issuers. Banks in the second tier of issuers are likely to be suffering a "retrenchment" in their credit card portfolios, he said, even as MBNA prospers.
Even among the best in the business, he added, the company stands alone. "MBNA is a better marketer than the other top 15," he said, pointing to its continued success in developing popular affinity card programs.
Bolstering the strong quarter was significant growth in MBNA's United Kingdom operation, which added $300 million of receivables to build its portfolio to $1.4 billion.
Bank stocks generally fared poorly in the day's trading. Analyst Katrina Blecher of Gruntal and Co. characterized it as a round of profit taking that often occurs as quarterly earning reports are filed.
The S&P bank index fell 0.23%, while the S&P 500 gained 0.26%. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 16.03 points, to 6,020.81.