Sales of Wells Fargo Shares Predicted

Bloomberg News

Wells Fargo & Co. investors will sell their holdings in California's second-largest bank, one of the company's biggest supporters on Wall Street predicted. Wells Fargo shares fell $8.44 to close at $316.19 in New York Stock Exchange trading after Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Inc. analyst Thomas Brown said the bank's executives gave investors little assurance the company was poised for rapid growth this year. Brown, a Wells Fargo booster through the 1990s, cut his 12-month price target for the stock to 419 from 465. "We expect near-term weakness" in the stock, Brown said in a report. "Some shareholders will reduce or eliminate their holdings." Brown's warning followed a meeting Wells Fargo held with investors Friday. Company executives spoke for less than an hour and didn't provide details for boosting earnings as some analysts had expected. "It was an investor relations whiff," Brown said. The presentation focused on the bank's retail and consumer banking strategy and was kept short by design, said Cindy Koehn, investor relations manager. Once a darling among Wall Street analysts and investors, Wells Fargo has struggled since acquiring First Interstate Bancorp of Los Angeles for $13.2 billion in 1996.

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