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Zions profits up 23.5% in quarter

SHARE Zions profits up 23.5% in quarter

Zions Bancorp. Thursday reported a 23.5 percent jump in second-quarter profits over the same period last year, as lower interest rates boosted loan growth.

Second quarter earnings grew to $73.6 million, or 79 cents per share, up from $59.6 million, or 69 cents per share, for the same period in 2000.

Analysts had expected Zions to earn between 74 and 81 cents per share for the quarter with a median of 79 cents, which was right on target, according to Thomson Financial/First Call, a Wall Street research firm.

Operating cash earnings for the quarter were $84.5 million, up 23.9 percent, or 91 cents per share, up 15.2 percent, over the same period last year. Cash return on equity was 25 percent, and operating cash return on assets was 1.48 percent.

"We're very pleased with the strong operating results achieved over the past quarter, as reflected by solid loan growth, an improved net interest margin, strong non-interest income and credit quality which continues to be very satisfactory," said Harris H. Simmons, president and chief executive officer.

As have other banks, Zions has been aided by six interest- rate cuts by the Federal Reserve this year, which has spurred customers to take out home loans and has taken pressure off the bank's own lending margins.

For the first half of the year, Zions had net income of $138.3 million, or $1.51 per share, including merger-related charges of $2.1 million, or 2 cents per share, and one-time charges related to reclassifying investment securities and accounting changes.

During the second quarter, Zions completed its acquisition of the Arizona branches of Pacific Century Bank.

Operating losses at Zions' Digital Signature Trust subsidiary hit $3.4 million, or 4 cents per share, for the quarter and $6.3 million, or 7 cents per share, for the first six months of 2001. DST provides Internet identity credentials for documents.

Zions' stock closed Thursday at $59.07. In early trading Friday, the shares were down 67 cents, or 1.13 percent, at $58.40. Over the past six months, Zions' shares have fallen 5.5 percent, below the S&P regional bank index, which declined 4 percent in the same period. Over the past 52 weeks, Zions' shares have traded at a low of $40.62 and a high of $64.

E-MAIL: max@desnews.com