CHARLOTTE, N.C. Presenting itself as all dressed up for its planned marriage with First Union Corp., Wachovia Corp. said Wednesday that its second-quarter profit leaped 76%.
Rising fee income and strong loan demand produced net income of $253 million, or $1.22 a share, beating analysts consensus by two cents a share. During the comparable quarter last year, Wachovia took a one-time, $130 million charge to boost its allowance for loan losses.
Wachovia sought to allay concerns that it would be unable to close a previous deal to sell its $8 billion consumer credit card portfolio to Bank One Corp.s First USA credit card unit.
The Winston-Salem, N.C., banking company said that transaction was on track but that there would be at least a one-month delay in closing it because the deal has been complicated by a conflicting agreement First Union has with rival credit card issuer MBNA Corp.
Wachovia executives said during a conference call Wednesday that they are negotiating unspecified modifications to the agent bank section of the sale agreement, which would give First USA the right to market cards to Wachovia customers. The deal, announced before Wachovia agreed to merge with First Union and originally set to close June 29, is now scheduled for completion by the end of this month.
The companies have not disclosed the sale price, but Wachovia said in April that it expected a gain of about $1.4 billion on the First USA deal, or about a $17.5% premium on the $8 billion portfolio. In the conference call, Robert McCoy Jr., Wachovias vice chairman and chief financial officer, used a lower number, $1 billion, which could indicate the companies are discussing a lower price.
Our proposed merger with First Union has necessitated changes to the agent bank agreement, Mr. McCoy said during the call. One analyst asked whether the deal might be in trouble, and Mr. McCoy replied, We are continuing the dialogue with [First USA], the people we signed a contract with.
Mr. McCoy did not elaborate. Bank One declined to comment.
Wachovias quarterly results were being watched closely but perhaps not quite so closely as those of First Union, which is scheduled to report today. The two North Carolina companies announced their merger plan on April 16, but they face a stiff challenge from Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks Inc., which made an unsolicited bid for Wachovia on May 14.
Though most analysts expect First Union to easily meet a profit estimate of 63 cents a share, Wall Street will be looking for signs of weakness that could give SunTrust an edge. Because both First Union and SunTrust are offering to trade their shares for Wachovias, fluctuations in their stock prices could alter the relative value of their offers. SunTrust on Friday reported a 9% increase in profits and beat the consensus estimate by three cents a share.
Because it expects the credit card sale to go through, Wachovia also presented a second set of numbers Wednesday. Without the credit card operation, the company would have earned $1.11 a share in the quarter, or about double what it would have earned the year earlier.
There were some obvious weaknesses in certain market-related areas, but that is not news at this point. It is a continuation of some trends weve seen over the past year, L.M. Bud Baker Jr., Wachovias chairman and chief executive, said during the conference call. Generally, we saw good loan growth, we saw good deposit activity and lots of forward-thinking activity going on on the part of our customers.
Loan volume rose 8.7% from a year earlier, helped by strong growth in commercial and residential real estate, the company said. But loan defaults remain a problem, and Wachovia said it boosted its loan-loss reserves by $94 million, or 77% more than in the first quarter, to $216 million. Executives said the additional expense was offset by about $97 million of one-time gains on the sale of bonds and other securities.
Nonperforming loans fell about $30 million compared with the second quarter of 2000, to $380 million, thanks to the sale of several large credits and collection on others, the company said.
Mr. McCoy said the company moved two large commercial credits to nonperforming status during the quarter: a $29 million loan to the struggling apparel firm Warnaco Group Inc. and a $23 million loan to an unnamed private company.
The securities gains helped boost noninterest income by 24% from a year earlier, though the increase was just 3.2% if the one-time gain from securities sales is excluded. Meanwhile, results elsewhere at Wachovia were modest. Net interest income was $653 million, up 2% from the year before, and the net interest margin slipped to 3.97%, from 4.22% a year earlier.
I thought it was a good quarter, said Katrina Blecher, an analyst at Sandler ONeill & Partners. I thought that they clearly are doing well on the revenue front.
W.A. Lee contributed to this report.