Society Corp. in Cleveland Emerges from Rivals' Shade

By Vogelstein, Fred | American Banker, July 15, 1991 | Go to article overview

Society Corp. in Cleveland Emerges from Rivals' Shade


Vogelstein, Fred, American Banker


Society Corp. in Cleveland Emerges from Rivals' Shade

While National City Corp.'s pursuit of Ameritrust is the hot topic in Cleveland banking circles these days, a local competitor, Society Corp., is quietly winning a few followers of its own.

When people mention top regional banks, "they think of Wachovia and NBD, and they don't think of Society, but they should," said Michael Plodwick, an analyst at C.J. Lawrence Inc.

Price Appreciation Foreseen

Mr. Plodwick said he expects Society's stock, which traded at $44 a share late Friday, to reach $55 by yearend.

Although a union between Ameritrust Corp. and National City Corp. would dwarf Society's $15 billion in assets, Mr. Plodwick and others claimed that Society could actually pick up loans and deposits in the post-deal confusion and from antitrust-related divestitures.

They concede that such a deal would make Society a smaller player relative to National City, but they also say Society would remain big enough to be competitive.

"I've got to believe that Society is better off competing with one bank, even if it's bigger, than being equal among three," said Mark Lynch, an analyst at Bear, Stearns & Co. Thursday, he raised his earnings estimate and boosted his rating on Society from "hold" to "buy".

Earnings Exceed Forecast

Meanwhile, first-half earnings in excess of Mr. Plodwick's expectations have confirmed his bullish view, which stems also from evidence that Society can improve earnings in a tough economic environment.

The C.J. Lawrence analyst cited improved interest margins, small increases in nonperforming loans, and high reserves as indicators that the company is "among the most attractive of any company we follow. …

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