Provident Financial


said Wednesday it would restate results for 1997 to 2002 due to accounting errors. The company also cut its 2003 outlook.

The company now expects earnings per share of $2.30 to $2.50, from a previous forecast of $2.50 to $2.70.

Shares of Provident slid in early trading, losing 18% to $22.93.

The accounting errors were related to nine auto lease financing transactions, according to findings by the company's finance staff. All these transactions were initially reported as an off-balance sale and lease back, in effect, being hidden from investors' view.

"All auto lease transactions ... in 2000 and thereafter were treated as financing leases and were accounted for correctly," said Christopher J. Carey, Provident's executive vice president and chief financial officer.

In restated results, the bank's income was lower by $20.1 million in 2002 and 2001, by $15.9 million in 2000, and by $11.3 million in 1999, according to the bank's statement. Income in 1998 was lower by $2 million, while income in 1997 was lower by $900,000.

Last week, Dutch retail and foodservice group



surprised markets after it also had to restate previous earnings due to accounting irregularities.