West One Bancorp shares are gaining on the strength of good second-quarter earnings and analysts' "buy" ratings.
The latest nod was from Piper Jaffray Inc., the Minneapolis securities firm.
The Boise, Idaho, bank "is in the fastest-growing region of the country," noted Steven Schroll, a Piper Jaffray analyst.
That has meant "very high loan demand, which is helping West One maintain its net interest margin and increase its asset base."
The growth trends also "have a positive impact on credit quality and core noninterest income," he said.
Earnings Estimates Raised
Mr. Schroll raised his investment rating to "buy" from "accumulate" and raised his 1993 earnings estimate to $4.70 a share from $4.35. He lifted his 1994 earnings forecast to $5.15 a share from $4.85.
West One shares were up 37.5 cents to $51.50 in late trading Monday after a gain of $1.125 on Friday. Volume on Monday was about double the average daily pace of 56,400 shares.
In the second quarter, the bank earned $1.20 a share, up from $1 a year earlier. It also announced a 2-for-1 stock split, effective Aug. 13.
Mr. Schroll's endorsement is the latest of several recent ones from Wall Street.
Last month, Joseph K. Morford of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. noted that the region where West One operates is "in the midst of a residential real estate construction boom, and there is no evidence yet of supply exceeding demand."
Idaho and Utah. he said, continue to experience "a steady inmigration of families and businesses, primarily Californians attracted to the lower cost of living and high quality of life."
Mr. Morford said economists are "optimistic about the outlook for future growth in the region, especially considering that the economy is much more diversified than in the past."
Solid Track Record
The analyst said West One "has a proven track record of rewarding its shareholders with above-average returns."
He expects earnings per share to increase more than 10% in each of the the next two years.
Mr. Morford projected that the stock would hit $60 in 12 to 18 months.
West One has assets of $7.1 billion. While centered in Idaho, the bank operates in Utah, Oregon, and Washington State.
The bank strengthened its Washington operations last September by acquiring, at a modest premium, assets from Bank-America Corp. after its acquisition of Security Pacific Corp.
Possible Takeover Target
Analysts also view West One as a future takeover target. The growing region is attractive to large superregional banks, but there are few banks left to buy.
West One's "attractiveness as a takeover candidate will grow," said Norman Jaffe of Fox-Pitt Kelton Inc. He has a "purchase" recommendation on the shares.
Mr. Morford suggested that West One would be particularly attractive to such potential buyers as Banc One Corp., First Bank System Inc., or Keycorp.