Earnings surge 57% at Allfirst Financial

Revenue improves

expenses are pared


February 17, 2000|By Bill Atkinson | Bill Atkinson,SUN STAFF

Allfirst Financial Inc. said yesterday that its fourth-quarter profit jumped 57 percent, driven by higher income from its trust and investment-advisory businesses and expense cuts.

The Baltimore banking company made $49.9 million in the quarter that ended Dec. 31, compared with $31.9 million in the corresponding period a year earlier.

In the full year, Allfirst made $172.3 million, down from $205.9 million in 1998, which was boosted by several one-time gains, including a $38.3 million gain on the sale of securities, and a $37.4 million gain on the sale of its credit-card portfolio. Excluding those gains, profit rose 21 percent.

"We are seeing some real progress here," said Susan C. Keating, president and chief executive officer of Allfirst. "The core businesses are really well positioned to be formidable in the marketplace."

Allfirst, previously known as First Maryland Bancorp, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Allied Irish Banks PLC of Dublin.

Allfirst operates 260 branches in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Washington, Northern Virginia and Delaware.

Its fourth-quarter profit was boosted by a 12.6 percent rise in trust and investment-advisory fees, which generated $21.5 million in income. Electronic banking, or income generated from ATMs, debit cards and online banking, jumped 18 percent to $6.5 million.

Expenses fell 11 percent in the full year and 19 percent in the fourth quarter.

The number of full-time jobs at the company fell to 5,493 at year-end 1999, down from 6,055 a year earlier. The positions were reduced mainly through attrition, Keating said.

Allfirst makes most of its money from lending, and loans rose 2 percent in the year to $10.8 billion. But core loans, which include business, commercial real estate and retail loans as well as leases, were up 5 percent during the year.

"Clearly, it [the lending business] is very competitive," Keating said. "We feel that we are getting a share on the credit side of the business."

Foreign loans fell 24 percent to $276.8 million as a result of the company's decision to reduce its exposure to international shipping owners.

Residential mortgages slipped nearly 17 percent to $686.8 million after the company decided to hold residential mortgage assets in the form of mortgage-backed securities rather than as loans.

Allfirst's credit quality improved with nonperforming loans, or loans that are late on either principal or interest payments, at $80 million, or 0.74 percent of loans.

Assets fell 4 percent in the year to $17.5 billion after the company repositioned its investment portfolio, and deposits were flat at $12.1 billion.

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