Citicorp and Chase Manhattan have made offers to buy National Permanent Bank, the District's second-largest savings and loan, and could hear from federal regulators within days which has won the financially ailing thrift, banking sources said yesterday.
The Federal Home Loan Bank Board, which regulates savings and loans, probably will decide within two weeks who will be given the right to purchase the troubled thrift, which has lost money for the last four years, federal and local bank officials said.
Citicorp officials have told several Washington bankers that they believe their bid is most competitive, bank officials said.
The officials, who spoke on the condition that they not be named, cautioned that, while Citicorp may be the front-runner in the bidding process, no final decision has been made. They said Citicorp is eager to pursue National Permanent, but that the banking giant could quit the race if it cannot reach accord with the bank board on the purchase.
The bank board put National Permanent on the auction block in January in order to return it to financial health. The board's other option was to liquidate the savings institution, which would have further strained the resources of the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp., the federal agency that insures deposits up to $100,000.
Only Citicorp and Chase have been identified as bidders by Washington bank officials.
National Permanent management has proposed its own investment package to improve the health of the institution by providing additional capital.
Neither Citicorp, Chase or bank board officials would comment on whether bids had been submitted or on what was likely to happen.
But Citicorp Vice President Lucius P. Gregg, who is orchestrating the attempt by the largest U.S. bank to enter the District, repeated Citicorp's preference for entering the market by owning a bank, not a thrift.
"We've had no discussions that have altered our goal of having a full-service bank in the District of Columbia and of honoring commitments to invest in the city," he said.
The investments Gregg referred to are those stipulated in the D.C. banking bill, which was passed on Jan. 15, and require out-of-state institutions buying a bank here to invest between $50 million and $100 million, create 200 jobs and set up two new branches in underserved areas.
Citicorp lobbied particularly hard for the bill. Several bankers have suggested that Citicorp might be eyeing National Permanent as a way to circumvent the law and enter the city without making sizable investments in the community.
Others say Citicorp wants to enter the District in a friendly way and would try to convert National Permanent to a bank and fulfill promises to pump money into the city.
Converting a savings institution into a bank requires approval from the Federal Reserve Board and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which regulate national banks.
Federal officials will not authorize a conversion unless local law permits it, however, and local banking sources say that D.C. law is unclear on the subject. An amendment explicitly allowing conversions may have to be added to the local banking law, the sources said.