HomeFed to Buy Another Small Thrift : Expansion: Agreement to acquire six-branch desert country S&L; marks HomeFed's second acquisition announcement in two months.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY BUSINESS EDITOR

In a bid to expand its presence in a booming residential area northeast of Los Angeles, HomeFed Bank of San Diego announced Monday it has signed an agreement to acquire First Federal Savings and Loan, a six-branch S&L; based in Ridgecrest with $148 million in assets.

Terms of the acquisition, which is subject to First Federal shareholder approval, were not disclosed. As of a year ago, First Federal's regulatory net capital was $12.2 million, a healthy 8.5% of assets, according to the Savings & Loan Register published by TCS Enterprises of San Diego. First Federal's branches are situated in Ridgecrest, Palmdale, Lancaster, Barstow, Quartz Hill and California City.

The deal is HomeFed's second acquisition in two months involving savings-and-loan institutions in the high desert. In September, the $18-billion thrift said it had agreed to acquire Antelope Valley Savings & Loan based in Lancaster. Antelope Valley has four branches and $279 million in assets.

A HomeFed spokeswoman said the acquisition is part of HomeFed's strategy of expanding into fast-growing parts of the state where there is a strong demand for home loans. Both acquisitions are expected to close by March, 1990.

First Federal's capital is "more than adequate," president Gene MacGregor said Monday, and could easily meet the three new capital standards imposed last summer by the federal S&L; rescue bill. But First Federal finds it increasingly difficult to compete in the current environment, he said.

"We've been desirous of selling for two or three years. We've done as much as we can do as a small association, and now it's time for people in our community to take advantage of what a large association can furnish," MacGregor said.

First Federal branches do not now feature automated teller machines, for example, nor does the thrift offer customers credit card services, MacGregor said. The acquisition by HomeFed, which has more than 200 branches statewide, should result in those services becoming available, he said.

"HomeFed has a great net worth, smart management. They know what has to be done, and are out doing it, making acquisitions to fill in their blank spots," MacGregor said. "They will be a statewide, strong association."

Unlike the First Federal acquisition, HomeFed's acquisition of Antelope Valley was a case of a strong institution, HomeFed, taking on a capital-deficient S&L; in Antelope Valley, whose capital falls short of the new adequacy tests. Antelope Valley is being acquired for $7 million, which is less than the thrift's current book value, the HomeFed spokeswoman said.

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