CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Fourth-quarter earnings rose strongly at Bank of America Corp. and Wachovia Corp., driven by acquisitions last year that helped the Charlotte banks avoid the interest-rate squeeze that has hampered some of the nation's other leading banks.
Bank of America, the nation's second-largest bank behind Citibank, said yesterday that its fourth-quarter net income jumped 47 percent, aided by its takeover of credit card issuer MBNA Corp.
Its local rival and No. 4, Wachovia, said its 35 percent gain in fourth-quarter earnings was driven by its purchase of Golden West Financial Corp., which was completed in October.
Wachovia has the most branches in the Philadelphia area among banks serving the region, with 223 local offices as of June 30, 2006, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Bank of America had the fifth-most local branches, with 116.
"Both banks seemed very pleased with their acquisitions and outlooks, although, to some degree, Wachovia did acknowledge that the overall condition of the housing market is currently more muted than they expected it to be," said Gary Townsend, an analyst with Friedman Billings Ramsey Group Inc.
Bank of America's profit climbed to $5.26 billion, or $1.16 a share, from $3.57 billion, or 88 cents a share, a year earlier. Results for the fourth quarter of 2005 did not include MBNA, which was acquired on Jan. 1, 2006.
The bank's revenue grew 34 percent, to $18.46 billion from $13.81 billion a year earlier.
Michael L. Mayo, an analyst with Prudential Equity Group L.L.C., said in a research note that he was concerned that Bank of America's fourth-quarter performance was below that of other money-center banks, such as JPMorgan Chase & Co.
He said that spread revenues - the difference between what the bank pays for funds and what it can lend them out at - were up only modestly. Meanwhile, "its institutional securities business lagged peers," and capital-markets revenue was not as strong as at other major banks, Mayo said.
Bank of America shares fell 33 cents, to $53.32, in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Earnings at Wachovia rose to $2.3 billion, or $1.20 a share, in the fourth quarter from $1.71 billion, or $1.09 a share, during the same period a year earlier.
Total revenue gained 31 percent, to $8.59 billion from $6.56 billion a year earlier.
Wachovia shares climbed 38 cents, to $56.65, on the NYSE.
"Wachovia generated one of the strongest fourth quarters of the banks reporting so far, given sizable strength in market-sensitive businesses, net interest margin improvement, and stable-to-improved credit trends across the portfolio," said a research note yesterday from the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analyst Lori B. Appelbaum. "Credit quality was among the best of those reporting this quarter."