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Zions Bancorp. ended 1990 with record net income of $26.6 million or $4.45 per share, a 50.7 percent increase over net income of $176.6 million or $2.98 per share in 1989, according to Harris H. Simmons, president and chief executive officer.

For the fourth quarter ending Dec. 31, Zions is reporting net income of $7.7 million or $1.29 per share, a 22.9 percent increase from the $6.2 million net income or $1.05 per share in the same quarter a year ago.The earnings results produced a return on average shareholders' equity of 16.8 percent for the quarter and 15.3 percent for all of 1990.

Simmons said fourth-quarter net income was a 5.7 percent increase over the previous record quarterly income in the fourth quarter of 1985,and 1990's pre-tax income of $38.2 million was 13.9 percent above the previous record in 1985.

He said the comparative strength of the Intermountain area economy, reduced levels of non-performing assets and strong reserves contributed to the company's improved results.

Non-performing assets have been reduced from $85.3 million or 4.9 percent of net loans and other real estate owned at the end of 1989 to $60.5 million or 3.3 percent at the end of 1990.

At the same time, Simmons said, reserves for loan losses as a percentage of non-current loans strengthened from 107 percent at the end of 1989 to 145 percent in 1990.

During 1990, Zions opened five new grocery store banking centers in Orem, Sandy, Sunset and Las Vegas, bringing to 23 the number of grocery store banking locations.

The bank also acquired the deposits of Deseret Federal Savings and Loan in 1990, merging 12 of Deseret's locations into Zions' existing branches and adding a new branch in Orem. A new facility also was opened in West Valley City.

Speaking about the general condition of the banking industry and the lending practices of some larger institutions, Simmons said Zions has largely avoided participation in highly leveraged transaction loans, and that in every case such loans are made only to companies with significant local operations.

He is optimistic about economic conditions in the Intermountain area for 1991, although that is tempered by the strength of the nation's economy.

Simmons said the bank enters the decade with strong earnings, capital and reserves, with a management team committed to continuing to build a business characterized by quality service and a quality balance sheet.