MNC Financial Inc., facing lackluster interest in the sale of its prized credit card subsidiary, yesterday took steps to find another way to raise the cash it needs to survive the turmoil in the region's banking and real estate industries.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, MNC, the parent of American Security Bank and Maryland National Bank, proposed selling 45 million shares of stock in the credit card operation, to be called MBNA America.

The subsidiary is the nation's fourth-largest bank credit card operation and is considered by analysts to be MNC's "crown jewel." Industry observers had predicted that the sale of MBNA would provide the parent firm with nearly $1.5 billion, plenty of money to pay off its outstanding debt and cushion the banks against additional losses from real estate loans that cannot be repaid.

However, MNC said in the SEC statement that it wanted to "expand {its} options with respect to the sale of MBNA America," which faces a market crowded by cash-strapped banks hoping to sell their credit card receivables -- the money owed by card holders to the bank. In addition, there has never been a sale of an entire credit card business, leaving analysts questioning whether there is any company large enough to purchase MBNA.

MNC Chairman Alfred Lerner could not be reached for comment yesterday. Other bank officials declined comment on the stock offering.

MNC made its announcement yesterday after the close of the stock market, but MNC stock had fallen during the day nonetheless, closing at $4.25, down 75 cents.

MNC is under pressure to begin raising cash. The company has been struggling with a large portfolio of souring real estate loans, which so far this year have resulted in losses to the bank of more than $200 million. In addition, next week MNC must begin redeeming an $823 million portfolio of long-term debt that has been used to support the parent firm's subsidiary operations.

About $170 million of that debt will mature next Tuesday, another $271 million is due in mid-January and the final $275 million matures in mid-February.

To help pay off that debt, MNC is hoping to borrow on its line of credit from Morgan Guaranty Trust Co. of New York. Yesterday, MNC said it is negotiating for more time to meet requirements that would allow the Morgan line of credit to be extended. Morgan said yesterday it would give MNC until Friday to meet the terms of the credit line agreement, which include selling at least one of its subsidiaries.

If MNC is unable to raise cash, either by selling MBNA or offering stock in the operation, it could be forced to default on that debt and may be unable to raise enough capital to meet federal requirements. Capital is the money banks are required to have in reserve to provide a cushion against losses and to help prevent a failure that would require intervention by the federal agency that insures bank deposits.

The planned MBNA stock offering, which will be made only by prospectus, will be syndicated in the United States and abroad, with 36 million shares offered to American investors and 9 million offered to foreigners.

MNC has granted the underwriters a 30-day option to purchase up to an additional 6.7 million shares, the company said.

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