DALLAS ( TheStreet) -- Shares of Comerica ( CMA) were up 1% in afternoon trading, to $39.61, despite analyst comment that the stock is relatively expensive based on earnings projections.

Christopher Mutascio of Stifel Nicolaus reiterated his hold rating on the shares, but cut his 2011 earnings estimate to $1.73 a share from $2.05 and his 2011 estimate to $2.17 from $2.35, "to reflect the acquisition of Sterling Bancshares ( SBIB)," which was announced January 18 and is expected to be completed in the second quarter.

Comerica agreed to pay about $1 billion in an exchange of shares for its Houston competitor.

Mutascio said the "primary drivers" for his reduced earnings estimates for Comerica were "an increased share count (23 million shares) and merger-related expenses," and that his estimates also reflected "cost savings of roughly $20 million in 2011, and $36 million in 2012."

"Despite appearing relatively attractive at 1.2 times tangible book, shares of Comerica trade at 18.1 times" Mutascio's 2012 earnings estimate. The analyst said that Comerica's forward P/E multiple was one of the highest within his firm's "large cap bank coverage universe."

Comerica had $53.7 billion in total assets as of December 31.

Looking at other bank holding companies with between $50 billion and $100 billion in assets, the forward price-to-earnings ratios based on the earnings estimates for 2012 among analysts polled by Thomson were 10.8 for Huntington Bancshares ( HBAN), 12.1 for M&T Bank Corp ( MTB), 13.3 for Hudson City Bancorp ( HCBK), 14.5 for Northern Trust ( NTRS), 15.1 for Zions Bancorporation ( ZION) and 16.8 for Marshall & Ilsley ( MI), according to data provided by SNL Financial.

M&I agreed in December to be acquired by Bank of Montreal ( BMO), in a deal valued at $5.8 billion, expected to close in July.

-- Written by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla.

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Philip W. van Doorn is a member of TheStreet's banking and finance team, commenting on industry and regulatory trends. He previously served as the senior analyst for TheStreet.com Ratings, responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. Mr. van Doorn previously served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Fla., and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Long Island University.

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