Chase Manhattan Corp.'s announcement last week that it will slash its dividend and eliminate 5,000 jobs could signal impending cutbacks by other major banks, analysts believe.
The nation's second-largest bank said last week it would halve its dividend this quarter because it planned to set aside more than $650 million to bolster reserves for loans that may go bad. Most of the loans financed commercial real estate.But analysts said real estate is just one trouble spot for major banks as the economy deteriorates.
Among other concerns are the loans that helped finance the wave of corporate buyouts in the 1980s. As business slows at the companies acquired through these leveraged buyouts, the likelihood that the loans will be repaid in full diminishes, analysts say.
One industry source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Chase may be just the first among top banks to scale back. The source said Citibank, the nation's largest, and Chemical Banking Corp., No. 6, both could be forced to retrench due to low levels of reserves compared with potentially troubled loans.
Other major banks "are going to watch closely to see whether the dividend cut hurts Chase's standing among the financial community" before considering following suit, said analyst Mark Lynch of Bear, Stearns & Co.
One major bank, Manufacturers Hanover Corp., issued a statement that it has every reason to believe its dividend will remain unchanged.
And it's not just the huge "money center" banks that are hurting. Some regional banks, particularly in New England, the Southeast and the Midwest, have been troubled for months. A stable history of dividend payments is a key reason investors put money in bank stocks.