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KeyCorp, Old Second get upgrades

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KeyCorp, Old Second get upgrades

Upgrades

* Stephens Inc.'s Terry McEvoy upgraded his stock rating on KeyCorp to "overweight" from "equal weight." The analyst also gave it a price target of $23.

The merger-related cost savings that boosted KeyCorp's stock price in 2016 "turned into old news in 2017," so much so that the stock has underperformed its peers so far this year. The First Niagara acquisition came with a tangible book value dilution and capital decline that could not be ignored, the analyst acknowledged, yet "the financial rationale [for the deal] was evident throughout 2017."

Cost savings of $400 million have already been realized, and both efficiency ratio and return on tangible common equity have improved, McEvoy noted. And 2018, he expects, will further highlight the combined company's revenue synergies, capital returns and expense cuts.

* Sandler O'Neill & Partners' Andrew Liesch raised his rating on Old Second Bancorp Inc. to "buy," on valuation. It was previously "hold."

Liesch kept the price target at $14.50, which he said was "still a modest discount to peers, but ... an attractive entry point for investors."

Old Second is "well-positioned" to acquire in and around Chicago, the analyst pointed out, and that is a market with "few logical acquirers for small banks." The Aurora, Ill.-based company is also set to benefit from its deposit base and its re-energized loan growth platform.

Initiation

* Sandler also now covers La Jolla, Calif.-based Private Bancorp of America Inc.

Analyst Tim O'Brien gave the stock a "buy" rating and a $27 price target.

The analyst noted its executives' and board members' banking experience and their establishment of a culture "predicated on winning client trust and building long lasting relationships." The company has managed to keep its nonperforming assets and net charge-offs significantly low for the past five years, he added, and has two untapped Fed funds lines with correspondent banks.

Private Bancorp is looking to grow into a $1 billion-in-assets bank. It had $590.5 million in assets as of Sept. 30.