Fourth quarter earnings results of two Bay Area holding companies reporting last week were decidely different.

Due to higher-than-expected expenses and anemic loan growth, Unionbancal Corp. earned $59 million in the fourth quarter, or 98 cents per share, about 50 cents below analysts' consensus estimates.

The earnings, which included one-time costs from a merger integration, amounted to a 32% decrease from the year-earlier quarter. The quarter was "not up to our expectations," said Kanetaka Yoshida, chief executive of the $29 billion-asset company.

Overall expenses, which increased slightly to $254 million for the quarter, should decrease now that it has completed the acquisition of Bancal Tri-State Corp., analysts said.

"It was sort of a bad news, good news type quarter," said Thomas Theurkauf, a banking analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. "The quarter was sloppy, but the outlook is quite good."

Golden West Financial Corp. of nearby Oakland reported net income of $76 million in the quarter, up 14% from the year-earlier quarter.

The $37 billion-asset thrift company, parent of World Savings and Loan, achieved earnings of $1.32 a share, matching analysts' forecasts.

Loan growth was central to the thrift's performance, analysts said, as the company booked $1.8 billion in new loans in the quarter, a 28% increase from the year-earlier period.

At yearend 1996, the ratio of nonperforming assets to total assets increased to 1.21%, compared with 1.11% at the end of 1995. "I wouldn't call it a real decline in asset quality, but we're not seeing the improvement that we're seeing at other thrifts," said Caren Meyer, a thrift analyst at Montgomery Securities.

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