"We have tapped, it seems, almost every [other] possibility for growing earnings," First Albany's Johnson said. "For years we've been downsizing, by closing obsolete plants, financing early retirements. . . . For years we've been investing in technologies which enable us to eliminate or reduce employment. I think every company has worked on any way they can to expand revenues, profits and profit margins."
Added A.C. Moore, senior strategist with Dunvegan Associates in Santa Barbara: "Corporate profitability is up. Optimism is up and funds are available to qualified borrowers. The confluence of those factors results in more deals than you'd see otherwise."
Monday's mergers come on the heels of several high-profile deals announced this year, most notably among media and entertainment giants.
Securities Data said the year's 10 largest mergers so far are those between Walt Disney Co. and Capital Cities/ABC Inc. ($18.84 billion); First Bank System Inc. and First Interstate Bancorp; Chemical Banking Corp. and Chase Manhattan Corp. ($9.87 billion); Hoechst and Marion Merrill Dow Inc. ($7.12 billion); Time Warner Inc. and Turner Broadcasting System Inc. ($6.88 billion); Kimberly-Clark Corp. and Scott Paper Co. ($6.79 billion); Pharmacia and Upjohn Co. ($6.32 billion); First Data Corp. and First Financial ($5.76 billion); Seagram Co. and MCA Inc. ($5.7 billion), and NBD Bancorp and First Chicago Corp. ($5.3 billion).
Times wire services contributed to this report.
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A Banner Day
It would have been an extraordinary day for mergers even without the proposed First Interstate deal. The biggest of those others:
* International Paper Co. agreed to acquire Federal Paper Board Co.: $3.5 billion.
* Johnson & Johnson suceeded in its takeover bidding for Cordis Corp.: $1.8 billion.
* Central & South West Corp. agreed to buy British utility Seeboard: $2.58 billion.
* United Biscuits agreed to sell Keebler Co.: $500 million.