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FIRST COMMERCE CORP. PREFERRED STOCK RAISED TO 'BBB-' BY FITCH -- FITCH FINANCIAL WIRE --

 NEW YORK, Jan. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- First Commerce Corp.'s (NASDAQ: FCOM) 7.25 percent cumulative convertible preferred stock is upgraded to BBB-' from BB+' and the company's credit trend is revised to improving from stable by Fitch. The upgrade reflects the steps taken by the New Orleans-based banking company to rapidly increase market share while fortifying its balance sheet.
 Despite the lack of loan growth opportunities, First Commerce's total assets grew more than 30 percent since year-end 1990 due to a pair of acquisitions and its 1992 common and preferred equity offerings. As a result, capital and liquidity improved, and the company's leading share of Louisiana's commercial bank core deposits grew to 15.9 percent from 12.1 percent during the same period.
 First Commerce exhibited significantly less asset quality erosion than the other major Louisiana banking companies as a result of the national recession or the weakness in the oil and natural gas industries during the late 1980s. Nonperforming assets (NPAs) declined 36 percent from their peak at the end of 1991's first quarter and represented only 3.1 percent of loans and foreclosed properties at September 30. This compared to the 5.3 percent, 9.3 percent, and 13.3 percent NPA ratios at Premier Bancorp, Hibernia Corp., and Whitney Holding Corp., respectively, as of the same date. In addition, reserve-bolstering efforts boosted coverage of nonperforming loans and delinquencies to 131 percent at Sept. 30 from 68 percent 18 months earlier.
 First Commerce boosted its equity-to-assets ratio to 6.78 percent from 5.01 percent during 1992's first nine months. However, the company is more likely to leverage some of the capital raised last year through acquisitions rather than maintain its capital ratios at record levels throughout 1993.
 -0- 1/6/93
 /CONTACT: Christopher M. Siedman, 212-908-0524, or Fred W. DeBussey, 212-908-0521, both of Fitch/
 (FCOM)


CO: First Commerce Corp. ST: Louisiana IN: FIN SU: RTG

TM -- NY058 -- 2374 01/06/93 16:51 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jan 6, 1993
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