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Friday, November 17, 2000

Pacific Century
CEO keeps vow
to buy stock

O'Neill says he's already
purchased between $8 million
and $9 million worth of shares

By Russ Lynch

Michael O'Neill, who took over as chairman and chief executive officer of Pacific Century Financial Corp. this month, says he has nearly completed his promised purchase of $10 million of the company's shares.

Bank of Hawaii Speaking to securities analysts in a conference call yesterday, O'Neill said he doesn't know exactly how much stock in the parent of Bank of Hawaii he has accumulated so far but figures he has already spent between $8 million and $9 million.

O'Neill said when he came onboard that he intended to buy $10 million worth of the sagging stock. He said yesterday he expects to reach that goal by next week.

Pacific Century's shares have been battered in recent months closing as low as $11.25 on Oct. 27. The last time the stock closed that low was in early 1991. The stock's poor performance led Lawrence Johnson to announce in August that he was retiring as chairman and CEO after 42 years with the company.

The stock has recovered somewhat from its lows but closed down 13 cents today at $14.19 on the New York Stock Exchange. Its shares are off more than 24 percent year to date.

O'Neill, a former vice chairman of Bank of America, was selected to replace Johnson on Nov. 3 after a two-month-long search.

O'Neill, 54, opened himself up to questions from analysts and major stockholders yesterday in response to requests but he said he is not yet ready to outline any specific course of action at the company.

He said his first priority is to get to know the company and its Bank of Hawaii subsidiary thoroughly but he already is looking at ways to improve its performance.

"I like this kind of work, taking companies that have an excellent franchise, that have had some problems, and working through those problems and focusing on the existing franchise and trying to build it," said O'Neill.

Because of some troubled loans in Asia, Bank of Hawaii has been under close scrutiny from regulators.

O'Neill said he will be talking to regulators, the bank's large investors and analysts in the coming months.

O'Neill said he would rather "seek their thoughts about what we have done in the past and what they think we should do in the future," than push some plans of his own.

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