A Rallying Cry For PNC

More Room To Run
Banking analyst David George of A.G. Edwards (AGE ) is down on regional banks, in part because of rising interest rates. But he's high on PNC Financial Services Group (PNC ) (PNC), whose risk-reward profile he finds "compelling." With assets of $91 billion, PNC offers banking, mutual fund servicing, and asset management in Delaware, Kentucky, New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Its stock is up from 49 a share in mid-April to 56 on Oct. 12. And more upside is ahead, predicts George, who sees solid earnings growth. Profits, which he says aren't affected that much by interest-rate moves because of its other businesses, will surprise the Street. He expects third-quarter earnings of $1.07 a share -- 2 cents above the Street's consensus estimate. The forecast for 2005 is $4.28; George expects $4.30. Next year, he projects $4.90 -- 15 cents above what analysts expect. George sees the stock at 63 in a year, buttressed by a 3.5% dividend yield. Scott Siefers of Sandler O'Neill & Partners (it has done banking for PNC) says PNC's focus on fee businesses is boosting earnings. A big part comes from 70%-owned investment outfit Blackrock, which manages $414 billion. One big PNC holder is famed investor Michael Price, formerly of Franklin Resources (BEN ), who now heads MFP Investors.

Note: Unless otherwise noted, neither the sources cited in Inside Wall Street nor their firms hold positions in the stocks under discussion. Similarly, they have no investment banking or other financial relationships with them.

By Gene G. Marcial

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