DESCRIPTION: The largest thrift institution in the Washington area, the 65th largest S&L in the United States, and the only area S&L to top $1 billion in assets, with 14 offices (four in Maryland, established before the government halted interstate branching) including the downton D.C. headquarters. It is a mutual S&L, owned by depositors. 1979 REVENUES (FISCAL YEAR ENDED OCT. 31, 1979): $90 million. DIVIDENDS ON SAVINGS ACCOUNTS: $48.4 million. SAVINGS ACCOUNTS: $804 million MORTGAGE LOANS: $882.5 million. FOUNDED: 1881. TOP EXECUTIVE: Thomas J. Owen, chairman and chief executive.

Perpetual made news in 1979 when it reported the first net loss in its near-century of business here. The S&L made page-one news in 1980 when it became the first S&L in the nation to post a 17 percent mortgage rate. Both developments reflect the extremely tight operating environment now facing thrift institutions that must pay high interest rates to attract funds but which have mortgages in their portfolios earning at rates far below the current market. Perpetual's loss, in fact, reflected one method of coping: by selling off $130 million of low-yielding mortgages it suffered a one-time loss of $23.3 million but got those loans out of the way. Without the sale, Perpetual would have posted operating profits of about $14 million. Because of Perpetual's very high reserve ratio, management will continue to upgrade the portfolio yield by selling off low, older coupon loans and reinvesting those funds at today's higher interest rates. Because of historic, conservative management policies that have shunned borrowing to build lending resources, Perpetual is in a better position than most S&Ls to weather the current storm.