4th-quarter income was up slightly at Mercantile

January 15, 1991|By Peter H. Frank

A chart accompanying an article yesterday on the fourth-quarter earnings of Mercantile Bankshares Corp. had an incorrect heading for its income for the year ended Dec. 31, 1990. It should have read: 12 months ended 12/31/90.

Mercantile Bankshares Corp., continuing a slowed but steady growth, said yesterday its income rose slightly during the final three months of last year, despite a large increase in its reserves to protect against potentially souring loans.

The company, owner of Mercantile-Safe Deposit and Trust Co. in Baltimore and 18 other affiliate banks, said it earned $16.9

million, or 57 cents a share, during the fourth quarter, compared with earnings of $16.4 million, or 56 cents a share, for the same period last year.


"It was a couple pennies [per share] ahead of our expectations, and that's always nice to see," said John A. Heffern, a banking analyst at Alex. Brown Inc. With yesterday's announcement, Mercantile was the first major bank in this region to release its detailed earnings for last year. But analysts cautioned that the report should not be used as a guide to predict the results of most other large banks in this region.

While many banks sway under the weight of mounting problems in their real estate loan portfolios, Mercantile had a relatively small exposure -- less than 10 percent of its loans -- in the more risky area of real estate construction as of Sept. 30, according to a Mercantile spokeswoman, Suzanne Wolff. Figures for the end of the year were not available, she said.

Still, the banking company was not immune to the economic downturn that has hit the Baltimore region. Non-performing loans, as a percentage of total loans, increased to 1.04 percent from 0.63 percent a year earlier.

Mercantile said it increased its fourth-quarter provision for possible loan losses to $6.4 million from the $1.7 million it set aside during the last three months of 1989.

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