1st Maryland, Provident, Signet banks post gains


An article in yesterday's editions about Provident Bankshares Corp.'s second-quarter earnings misstated the bank's assets. The correct number is $2.4 billion.

The Sun regrets the error.

Three local banks yesterday reported earnings gains for the second three months of 1995, as Provident Bankshares Corp. and Signet Banking Corp. posted bigger earnings gains but First Maryland Bancorp remained the most profitable of the three.

First Maryland, the second leading bank in the Baltimore market, said its earnings rose 3.8 percent to $29.1 million. Signet said its earnings from continuing operations jumped 88 percent to $29.7 million, or 50 cents a share, and Provident said its net income climbed 52 percent to $4.4 million, or 55 cents a share.

"Overall, banks have been generally up this quarter and almost always attributable to increased loan demand," said Arnold Danielson, president of the bank consulting firm Danielson & Associates in Rockville.

He said the strong loan demand is offsetting a narrower spread between the rates banks pay for deposits and what they make on loans. That spread narrowed as interest rates rose last year and early this year. All three banks reporting yesterday noted that pattern.

Signet's big gains excluded last year's profits of Capital One Financial Corp., Signet's former credit card unit. Signet spun off Capital One in February.

Signet Chairman Robert Freeman said the company's loan base grew "at a healthy pace" even though Signet continues to shrink its commercial real estate-backed loan portfolio. The bank released figures that showed business loans jumped by about $650 million to $2.8 billion in the last year. Consumer lending fell dramatically because of the divestiture of the credit card company.

Provident, a relatively small bank at $1.8 billion in assets, said it added $541 million in earning assets over the past year, fueling a 16 percent gain in interest income. However, key profit ratios at the former savings and loan association continue to lag far behind those of bigger commercial banks.

Signet made money during the quarter at an annual rate of $1.14 per $100 of assets. Provident's profits worked out to 71 cents per $100 annually. First Maryland's profits, while growing more slowly, were the highest of the three at a yearly rate of $1.20 per $100.

Signet's stock closed unchanged at $24.625. Provident's fell 62.5 cents, to $26.75. First Maryland is already a unit of Dublin-based Allied Irish Banks PLC, so its shares are not publicly traded.

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