Washington Mutual's purchase of H.F. Ahmanson & Co. will heighten the competition for Wells Fargo & Co., but right now Wells' trust clients are profiting handsomely from the deal.
Wells Fargo Bank has grossed $36 million in the past two weeks on sales of Ahmanson stock on behalf of trust clients, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. It sold about 473,000 shares in four blocks, ranging in size from 95,000 to 142,000, the filings stated.
The bank as fiduciary held 2.064 million shares Dec. 31, making it one of Ahmanson's top 10 shareholders, according to CDA Spectrum. And that was after selling about 206,000 Ahmanson shares toward yearend, the stock tracking firm said.
The runup in Ahmanson's stock price after the merger announcement March 17 gave Wells the opportunity to score profits for clients.
But Wells Fargo itself may be hurt by the deal ultimately. The merger will knock Wells to the No. 3 spot in deposit share in California, behind Bank of America and Washington Mutual. Washington Mutual will also nearly double its branches in California, to 700, under the $9.9 billion stock swap.
Shares of Ahmanson closed at $80.8125, up 6.25 cents, on Thursday; Wells was up $4.375, to $382.875.
In other merger-related share sales reported this week, five senior executives at Golden State Bancorp unloaded a total of 180,550 shares. Their company is to merge this fall with First Nationwide Holdings of San Francisco.
Vice chairman Richard A. Fink sold 60,000 shares for $2.4 million, and chief executive officer John E. Haynes shed 50,000 shares for $1.9 million.
Also selling Golden State shares were executive vice president William J. Birch, 26,000 shares for $1 million; retail subsidiary president Michael Goraleski, 23,334 shares for $907,000; and treasurer Minaz Mithani, 21,250 shares for $854,000.
The activity came after a recent sale of 420,000 shares by chairman Stephen Trafton.
The spate of transactions occurred as the executives all took advantage of a limited opportunity to exercise and sell options they had been granted, a spokesman for Golden State said.
Golden State shares were up 12.5 cents, to $37.50, on Thursday.
On the other coast, mortgage executives at Long Island Bancorp in New York have sold shares as their company prepares to be taken over by Astoria Financial Corp.
John Pettit, senior vice president for commercial real estate, sold 1,613 shares for $106,458, and William Purschke, senior vice president for residential mortgages, sold 500 shares for $33,125, filings stated.
The executives and a spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment.
Shares of Long Island Bancorp closed on Thursday at $63.75, down 50 cents.
In general, many bank stocks fell along with the overall market, as weakness in technology stocks put a damper on other sectors.
The Standard & Poor's bank index dipped 0.30%, and the Dow Jones industrial average was off 0.43%. The S&P 500 lost 0.13%, but the Nasdaq bank index rose 0.14%.
Gainers included Banc One Corp., up $1, to $57; First Chicago NBD Corp., 87.5 cents, to $89.375; and Unionbancal Corp., 87.5 cents, to $101.75.