In a sign that the slowing economy is not wreaking havoc on banks everywhere, Greater Bay Bancorp of Palo Alto, Calif., is promising investors rosier-than-expected earnings for the fourth quarter.
Two days before a scheduled presentation at an investors conference, Greater Bay said Monday that it expects to exceed analysts expectations for the quarter. The most recent consensus of estimates tracked by Thomson Financial/First Call is 43 cents a share.
The company also said that its performance expectations for next year include 20% to 25% loan growth, 15% deposit growth, and 22% to 27% revenue growth. It is targeting per-share earnings growth of 17% to 25% in 2001.
Shares of $4.3 billion-asset Greater Bay rose 8.5% in midday trading Monday. The news came on a generally positive day for the markets, which have declined in recent days because of lingering uncertainty over the outcome of the presidential election. The Dow Jones industrial average rose nearly 1% by midday Monday and the Nasdaq 0.4%.
Financial stocks also rose Monday. The American Banker index of 225 bank stocks was up 0.9% at noon, fueled by gains in shares of large financial institutions, including J.P. Morgan & Co., Merrill Lynch & Co., and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co.
The positive earnings outlook reported by Greater Bay came after weeks of jitters over the quality of earnings to be reported by banking companies for this quarter. In the Southeast in particular, analysts said, rising nonperforming assets are a concern. Bank of America Corp. and First Union Corp., among other large institutions, spooked the financial markets this month by predicting potentially large losses from their exposures to syndicated loans gone bust.
Greater Bay has steadily acquired small community banks in the high-growth San Francisco Bay area. Unlike many banking companies this quarter, it said it expects a lower ratio of nonperforming assets to total assets.
Two credits totaling $5.4 million that were previously reported as nonperforming but expected to improve in credit quality have in fact become performing during the fourth quarter, the company said in a statement.
Greater Bay also said net chargeoffs for the year should be less than 0.4% of average loans outstanding.
Joseph K. Morford, an analyst at Dain Rauscher Wessels in San Francisco, said the positive preannouncement is an encouraging sign, given the current banking environment.
Adding credence to the rosy outlook are the strengths of Greater Bays core businesses, which are focused on financing companies and high-net-worth individuals through its 10 subsidiary banks, analysts said.
The company has carved out a niche for itself as a super community banking company, acquiring regional institutions and typically consolidating their back-office systems while keeping much of their senior management and individual boards in place.
It expanded to the northern Bay Area last month when its deal for Bank of Petaluma closed.
The fact that Greater Bay Bancorp will exceed estimates is not necessarily a surprise given the ongoing strength of its core business, Mr. Morford said.
In other economic news, resales of U.S. homes declined 3.9% last month but remained on track for the second-best year on record.
The National Association of Realtors said it expects resales to end the year at about five million, near the record of 5.2 million set last year.
Bloomberg News contributed to this article.