There are 27 bank and thrift stocks listed in the stock tables on the following pages and every one of them has lost ground since the beginning of the year. The losses range from 13 percent to 79 percent, with an average decline of 39 percent. The trend has cost Washington area investors millions of dollars and undermined their confidence in financial stocks.
These stocks were looking fairly good until last spring. But then the erosion of the residential and commercial real estate markets swept into this region and began to threaten the health of local thrifts and banks.
Area developers found they could not pay the interest on their loans, forcing financial institutions to boost their capital reserves, a move that ate up their profits. When the regulators put the institutions under their own microscope, even more loans wound up on the problem list.
The crisis atmosphere seemed complete when Washington Bancorporation (National Bank of Washington) and United Savings Bank of Virginia collapsed, wiping out the stockholders of both institutions.
At this point, with no sign of an upturn in the real estate market, with developers teetering on the edge of bankruptcy or dropping into the abyss, and with the regulators still on the prowl, financial stocks continue to work their way downward.
Last week was no exception.
MNC Financial Inc. of Baltimore hit a new low when it dropped to $5.875 before bouncing back to $6.75. Since Jan. 1, when the shares sold for $22.12 1/2, the stock is off 70 percent.
Mercantile Bankshares Corp. of Baltimore, which sold at $25 in January, adjusted for a 2-for-1 split, fell last week to $17 and stayed there, a loss of 32 percent.
Dominion Bankshares Corp. of Roanoke, dropped to a low of $10.62 1/2, off 44 percent from the year's opening price of $19.12 1/2.
Crestar Financial Corp. of Richmond, which opened the year at $28.75, found itself off to $15.75 a share before climbing back to $16, a loss of of 45 percent.
Among banks, the other dramatic declines, as of Aug. 31, were Signet Banking Corp. of Richmond, $15.25, down 52.5 percent; Sovran Financial Corp. of Norfolk, $26.50, down 30.3 percent; and James Madison Ltd. of Washington, $3, down 49 percent.
On the thrift side, the heavy losers have been Ameribanc Investors Group of Annandale, $3.25, down 59 percent; Columbia First Bank, $6, down 57 percent; Loyola Capital Corp., $9.75, down 35 percent; Second National Federal Savings Bank, $3.50, down 46 percent; Trustbank Federal Savings Bank, $1.50, down 75 percent; and Piedmont Federal Savings of Manassas, $5, down 65 percent.
One of the toughest hits has been taken by Perpetual Financial Corp. of Vienna, which dropped from $7.13 to $1.50, off a staggering 79 percent.
And worse yet, there's no telling when it'll be safe to go back in the water.
Fun times in Baltimore. Back in April, First Maryland Bancorp, which is owned by the Allied Irish Banks PLC of Dublin, offered to buy Baltimore Bancorp for $17 a share, or about $217 million.
Before the offer, Baltimore Bancorp stock was trading for about $12 a share.
However, the offer was flatly rejected by Baltimore Bancorp -- despite demands from its stockholders that it approve the deal. Since then, Baltimore Bancorp stock has fallen to about $10 a share.
That situation prompted T. Rowe Price Associates Inc., a Baltimore mutual fund company and the largest shareholder in Baltimore Bancorp, to tell the Securities and Exchange Commission that it may work with other shareholders to force the bank's managers to accept the offer.
T. Rowe Price owns 1.2 million shares, a 9.4 percent stake, for which it paid $14.56 million, or an average of $12.13 a share.
That prompted Baltimore Bancorp to ask the Federal Reserve to investigate whether T. Rowe Price was violating any federal laws. There'll be more to come on this.
The pot is still boiling at Cerbco Inc., where brothers George and Robert Erikson are under fire from shareholders. The Eriksons are trying to sell their controlling interest in Cerbco for $6 million, or $24.24 a share. Shareholders are unhappy because they are not part of the deal and their stock is trading for only about $2 a share.
At the heart of the deal is the fact that Cerbco owns a controlling interest in Insituform East Inc. of Landover. Thus, if you buy control of Cerbco from the Eriksons, you also get control of Insituform East, a company that repairs sewer pipes without digging them up.
The Eriksons hope to sell their control of Cerbco to Insituform of North America Inc. of Memphis, which wants to forge a new link with its Washington area counterpart.
The controversy first surfaced publicly in March when the Eriksons announced the deal. It resurfaced in July at Cerbco's stormy annual meeting, and it got into the courts in late August when Washington attorney Merle Thorpe Jr., head of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, attempted to stop the transaction.
Noting that the matter is in the courts, Robert Erikson said he could not comment on the controversy.
Thorpe's court action already was pending in Delaware, where Cerbco is incorporated, when the Eriksons revealed the contents of their letter of agreement with Insituform.
Thorpe's attorney, Joseph M. Hassett of Hogan & Hartson, said the letter indicated that Insituform had agreed not to talk about a deal to anyone other than the Eriksons and also had agreed to pay for the Eriksons' legal fees if they were sued by shareholders. Thorpe's lawyers responded by filing an additional action in Delaware asking the court to stop the deal between the Eriksons and Insituform.
In the midst of all of this, a proposed compromise was crafted by Stephen Hartwell, who holds shares in both Cerbco and Insituform East. Hartwell is the chairman of the $5 billion Washington Mutual Investors Fund.
Hartwell suggested that Insituform's $6 million be spread out over all shareholders. The way he figured it, a shareholder would get $24.24 for selling 17 out of every 100 shares owned. In return, the shareholder would have to give Insituform his voting rights for five years for the other 83 shares. That arrangement would give Insituform control of both Cerbco and Insituform East.
The main problem with the idea is that the Eriksons would get only about $1.5 million instead of $6 million they expected.
Does anyone here speak Ada? Well, after seven lean years, it looks like the answer might be yes for Verdix Corp., of Chantilly. At least, two stock analysts at Branch, Cabell & Co. in Richmond think they finally see some fat years ahead.
Ada is the computer language that was advertised back in 1983 as the future darling of the Pentagon for "mission-critical" systems involving weapons and communications. But, as often happens at development stage companies, the Ada business did not develop as rapidly as forecast, and there was lots of corporate trauma and plenty of red ink during the 1985-1988 time frame.
In the process, many stockholders who bought stock in Verdix in the days when the stock was at the $7.50 level, were disappointed to see the stock drop off to $1 or below.
But if any of those shareholders held on, there may be hope in sight, according to analyst D. Mackenzie Faulkner III and E. Hunter Thompson Jr.
Sales and earnings per share have moved up steadily since the turnaround in the 1988 fiscal year, ending March 30. Sales were up from $6.4 million in 1988 to $9.5 million in 1989 to $11.4 million in 1990. Earnings per share for the same years rose from 1 cent to 13 cents to 15 cents.
For fiscal 1991, which ends in March, Faulkner estimates $15 million in revenue with 18 cents a share in earnings. For the year beyond that, he foresees sales of $22 million and 20 cents a share in profit.
The analysts say they believe Verdix shares, now selling at $1.56 each, are suitable for long-term investors "comfortable with the inherent risks in smaller capitalization stocks." The analysts didn't mention patience, but that would be useful, too.