Wall Street shrugged off Union Planters Corp.'s worse-than-expected fourth-quarter loss Friday, as analysts focused on better prospects for 1995.
Union Planters, which is based in Memphis, announced late Thursday that it had lost $16.8 million, or 47 cents a share, due to acquisition-related and bond restructuring charges. Analysts who follow the company closely had been expecting a loss of about 15 cents a share.
The fourth-quarter loss compares to earnings of $20.7 million in the 1993 quarter, which was restated to include the purchase of Grenada Sunburst System Corp. of Grenada, Miss. With assets of $2.5 billion, Grenada Sunburst was the largest acquisition in Union Planters' history.
Numerous charges related to that acquisition in the third and fourth quarters reduced Union Planters' full-year earnings to $58.6 million, or $1.25 a share, down 37% from $92.6 million in 1993.
Union Planters, which now has assets of $10 billion, had announced in September that it would take $18 million to $27 million of after-tax charges in the fourth quarter. The actual number came in at the high end of that range: $27.2 million.
The company also, as previously announced, took a $9.7 million charge to cover a credit card marketing program. And on top of all that, it took an $8.4 million after-tax loss on the sale of $460 million of low-yielding securities.
"It was going to be a quarter that was essentially worthless as far as earnings anyway," said Peter Tuz of Memphis-based Morgan Keegan Inc. "Why not do everything you can to clean house and make '95 a better year? I think that's what happened."
As part of a continuing "reengineering" program, which was accounted for in the special charges, Union Planters said it would reduce its staff of 5,473 employees by 20% in 1995 and its 383 branches by 10%.
"While no one likes large charges, we have addressed the issues that should result in improved profitability of the combined organization in 1995 and 1996," said chairman and CEO Benjamin W. Rawlins Jr.
"They're poised to do very well in 1995 if they can get all these expense reductions in place," agreed Mr. Tuz.
Union Planters' margin of 4.47% was up 12 basis points from the year- earlier quarter, due to acquisition-related loan growth. Nonperforming assets at yearend totaled $25 million, or 0.42% of loans and foreclosed properties.