The bid price for Riggs National Bank soared yesterday but virtually all current owners decided not to sell in the wake of a Washington Post report that former Washington Star owner Joe L. Allbritton is negotiating to acquire the largest block of the bank's stock, now owned by Dynalectron Corp. Chairman Jorge E. Carnicero.
Riggs was quoted at $53 bid after the close of over-the-counter market trading yesterday, up $5.50 to a new high for the year. Although traders in Riggs stock said they were inundated with telephone inquiries about the Allbritton move, only 480 shares actually traded hands.
Early yesterday, Riggs and National Association of Securities Dealers officials moved to delay the opening of trading in stock of Washington's biggest financial institution pending national dissemination of news about the Allbritton-Carnicero talks.
In a formal statement, Riggs President Daniel J. Callahan III confirmed The Post's report that negotiations were being held between Carnicero and Allbritton about the sale of Carnicero's 14 percent holding of the bank's 2.99 million common shares.
Callahan, who had been surprised by news of the negotiations the previous day, said yesterday that Riggs "is not aware that such talks involve any other shareholders," and he emphasized that the bank itself is not a party to the discussions.
Allbritton reportedly has bid $80 a share for the Carnicero shares, or close to $33 million. Both men were reported to be traveling the last two days and not available to comment.
But that didn't stop widespread speculation in the local business community that if Allbritton is successful in his bid for the Riggs stock, he would seek a seat on the board of directors, move to establish for himself an active role in the bank and perhaps launch a bid to buy additional shares. Allbritton already owns between 1 percent and 2 percent of Riggs common stock in his own name, sources stated.
Allbritton has sold his former controlling interest in First International Bancshares, a Texas bank holding company.
One broker, who noted that current Riggs stockholders obviously were waiting for more news about the Allbritton talks before making a decision on selling or keeping their shares in the wake of increasing price bids, said it is possible that competing bids for Riggs shares could develop from outside investors.
Riggs Chairman Vincent Burke Jr. was out of the country and could not be contacted for comments on the Allbritton stock bid or speculation that the former Star owner may seek the board chairmanship for himself.
One apparent beneficiary of new interest in regional bank stocks, which have been generally undervalued, was Riggs' rival American Security Corp., owner of Washington's second-largest bank. ASC stock rose $1.75 a share yesterday to $32.25.
Although there were some raised eyebrows about the reported $80-a-share bid, several brokers said it was not out of line with current premiums over market values for bank stocks. Earlier this week, for example, Manufacturers Bank of Los Angeles agreed to a $45-a-share takeover offer from Mitsui Bank of California, a unit of the giant Japanese Mitsui Bank Ltd. On Nov. 10, Manufactureres Bank had been trading at about $18 a share.
Riggs, with assets of more than $3 billion, has been Washington's largest bank for more than a century. Founded in 1836, the bank owns Central Charge Service, the region's largest credit card business, and recently announced plans to establish a holding company that could expand into related business fields across state lines.