THRIFTS : B of A Apparently Wins Bid for S&L; Over Security Pacific

TIMES STAFF WRITER

BankAmerica Corp. appears to have beaten Security Pacific Corp. in the competition to buy failed Merabank, Arizona's largest savings and loan.

The Resolution Trust Corp., the agency that sells failed savings and loans such as Merabank, declined comment, but indicated that an announcement would come late Friday.

California banking sources said Security Pacific definitely did not win the bidding for Phoenix-based Merabank, which has an estimated $4.7 billion in deposits and 66 branches. The sources added that BankAmerica is believed to have been the only other major contender.

Adding Merabank would further strengthen BankAmerica's efforts to build a large branch network throughout the West. That expansion is one of the main goals of Chief Executive Richard M. Rosenberg, who became head of the San Francisco-based parent of Bank of America this year.

In the past four months, BankAmerica has outbid Los Angeles-based Security Pacific for two large failed thrifts: Western Savings & Loan in Arizona and Benj. Franklin Federal Savings in Oregon.

Merabank was a unit of Pinnacle West Capital Corp. It was seized by regulators in January after being declared insolvent. Merabank's failure is expected to cost taxpayers more than $1.5 billion.

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