MBNA Corp., First USA Inc. Capital One Financial Corp., and Advanta Corp. reported robust fourth-quarter earnings.
The four bank card specialists had reported similarly strong third- quarter earnings. The strong growth in the latest quarter seems to alleviate fears of rising consumer delinquencies and restrained consumer card spending.
"In the third quarter, a number of companies in other businesses - like home equity - had problems," said Moshe Orenbuch, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. "The market was concerned after seeing that, but I don't think these concerns materialized."
Capital One showed the biggest jump in net income - a whopping 73%, to $37.8 million - but observers noted that its spinoff from Signet Banking Corp. had distorted year-earlier earnings.
"Those numbers are not comparable," said Tom Facciola, an analyst with Salomon Brothers.
Diana Sun, a spokeswoman for Capital One, said its 1994 fourth quarter "was lower than it should have been" partly because of the cost of funding the spinoff. The Falls Church, Va., company had pro-forma earnings of $21.8 million in the fourth quarter of 1994.
MBNA Corp., the nation's second-largest bank card issuer, reported $110.2 million in net income, up 34%. First USA, ranked third, reported net income of $58.9 million, up 39%.
Advanta Corp. reported net income of $37.6 million, up 31% - the Horsham, Pa.-based company's 26th consecutive quarter of record growth.
"Our list of accomplishments is pretty long, setting the stage for future accomplishments," said Richard Greenawalt, Advanta's president and chief operating officer, in a conference call on Tuesday. He singled out Advanta's first overseas joint venture, with Royal Bank of Scotland.
Wilmington, Del.-based MBNA's outstandings totaled $26.7 billion at Dec. 31, up from $18.7 billion a year earlier. Outstandings were up $2 billion from the Sept. 30 level.
For 1995, MBNA said it reached agreements with 747 groups to issue affinity cards and added 7.5 million cardholders.
Delinquency on total managed loans for MBNA was 3.7% for the fourth quarter, up from 3%; losses on outstandings were 2.94%, up from 2.44%.
"We're seeing a trend toward higher delinquencies and loss rates," said Susan Roth, an analyst with Bear, Stearns & Co. "We will see higher loss rates in 1996, but as we saw, they absorbed higher losses and still made earnings in 1995."
While such losses were once due primarily to unemployment, Ms. Roth indicated that this is no longer true. "Consumers are more heavily burdened with debt payments relative to their personal income growth."
Dallas-based First USA, with $17.5 billion in managed loans at Dec. 31, said its oustandings had increased by $6.5 billion since last year's fourth quarter.
First USA opened just over 1 million new accounts during the fourth quarter, 21.9% more than in the same quarter a year earlier.
First USA's delinquency rate was 3.57%, compared with 2.5% at Dec. 31, 1994. Net credit loss also rose, to 3.1% from 2.05%.
Advanta reported yearend card outstandings of $10 billion, up 53% from Dec. 31, 1994. Total managed receivables increased to $12.2 billion, from $8.2 billion.
The 30-day delinquency rate edged up to 3.3% in the fourth quarter, from 2.7% for the fourth quarter of 1994, and 3% at Sept. 30. The chargeoff rate increased to 2.6% from 2.1%.
For Capital One, ranked ninth nationally, outstandings were $10.4 billion at Dec. 31, up from $7 billion at yearend 1994. The fourth-quarter delinquency rate was 4.2%, up from 3.4%; credit losses were 2.58%, up from 2.35%
Capital One added 134,000 accounts during the quarter, bringing its total to 6.1 million.