BankAmerica Corp., the troubled California bank company, yesterday reported first-quarter profits of $63 million, 45 percent lower than in the first three months of 1985 but a sharp improvement over the $178 million loss recorded in the final quarter of last year.
Loan problems continue to plague BankAmerica, the nation's second-biggest bank company. It has assets of $117.7 billion. The company added $262 million to its reserve for loan losses, a charge that comes directly from profits. A year ago, BankAmerica's loan-loss provision was $209 million. In the fourth quarter of 1985, its loan-loss provision was $591 million.
For the second consecutive quarter, the bank company's directors voted to omit a dividend on common stock. Companies with losses and low earnings, like BankAmerica, have been under pressure from regulators to not pay dividends to conserve resources.
The company, which is the parent of San Francisco's Bank of America, has been hurt by bad loans to California real estate developers, farmers, private companies in Latin America and ship owners. It also has been hampered by an expensive network of branches that it built up in the days when bank deposits were regulated and low-cost.
Many analysts and bank officials themselves said BankAmerica's difficulties were compounded when upper-middle management and top management proved slow to adapt to a changing banking environment. For all of last year, BankAmerica had a loss of $337 million, which would have been far bigger had it not earned $490 million by selling its San Francisco headquarters building and a finance subsidiary.Meanwhile, Crocker National Corp., another troubled San Francisco bank company, reported its first-quarter profits rose to $24 million from $9 million the year before.
Like Bank of America, Crocker has suffered heavy loan losses in the last few years. As a result, Midland Bank, the British company that bought Crocker four years ago, has been forced to pour resources into its California subsidiary to keep it afloat. Midland already has bought most of Crocker's foreign loans in an attempt to clean up its portfolio.
Earlier this year, Midland announced that it would sell Crocker, which has assets of $19.9 billion, to Wells Fargo & Co., the other big bank company based in San Francisco.
BankAmerica wrote off $257 million in loans as uncollectable during the first quarter. Although that was higher than the $221 million in actual loan losses during the first quarter of 1985, it was 56 percent less than the $527 million in loan losses it recorded during the last three months of 1985.
BankAmerica's stock rose 12.5 cents yesterday to close at $16.625 a share. In another development, Continental Illinois Corp. reported profits of $40.1 million in the first quarter compared with $39.3 million in the first quarter of 1985. But in both periods, the earnings were buoyed by special tax gains.
Continental's operating income in the first quarter was $22.5 million compared with $24.3 million in 1985. Part of the decline in income represents caution on the part of the giant Chicago bank company, which was saved from failing by the federal government in 1984. Continental, with assets of $29.4 billion, has sharply increased its lower-yielding, but safer, assets that can be converted quickly to cash at the expense of higher-yielding loans.
The bank company transferred another $106 million of problem loans to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and has the right to transfer another $813 million to the federal agency before Sept. 26, 1987.