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First Union happy to share forecast for first quarter

First Union Corp. believes it can deliver an Olympic-class performance and report record earnings for the first quarter of 1992.

The company estimated Tuesday it will earn between 78 to 83 cents per common share for the first three months of this year. In the first quarter of 1991, the company earned 67 cents per common share.

First Union, based in Charlotte, N.C., has $46-billion in assets and owns First Union National Bank of Florida, the state's second largest bank.

Banks typically do not make public their expected earnings in advance unless there is very bad or _ as in this case _ very good news. First Union unveiled its estimate in part to convince bank analysts to raise their expectations of the company for the quarter.

"Presuming we meet that forecast, that's pretty good for recessionary times," said Byron Hodnett, chairman and chief executive officer of First Union National Bank of Florida.

First Union on Tuesday also said it is raising its quarterly cash dividend by 3 cents to 31 cents per share for its common stock from the fourth quarter of 1991.

Indeed, First Union has been feeling its oats ever since its September acquisition of the failed Southeast Bank in Miami. The purchase made First Union second in size among the state's banks behind Barnett Banks Inc.

On Tuesday, Hodnett said his First Union of Florida should generate at least half of the company's earnings for the quarter. Residential mortgage lending will lead the way, he predicted.

First Union's stock jumped $1.62{ on Tuesday, closing at $35.87{.

The company's improving performance is fueled by strong margins, an end to the rise in its nonperforming assets and heavy cost cutting, said Charles Peabody, bank analyst with East Shore Partners in Springfield, N.J.

"Most analysts' forecasts for First Union are low."