Two Maryland savings and loan associations that by law were required to have federal deposit insurance by today or be forced out of business were granted 30-day extensions yesterday by the Maryland Deposit Insurance Fund (MDIF).

MDIF Director Melville S. Brown approved the 30-day grace period for Gibraltar Building & Loan Association of Annapolis and Admiral Builders Savings and Loan Association of Parkville because the two thrifts are expected to be covered by the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC) within a matter of days.

Gibraltar, a thrift with $128 million in assets, received conditional approval for FSLIC coverage in November, and is expected to win final approval once the state agrees to pledge $2.5 million in capital so it can meet a key federal requirement.

Admiral, which has $55 million in assets, has agreed to an acquisition by a large New Jersey thrift that is federally insured.

FSLIC is expected to approve the purchase shortly.

Under legislation adopted by the General Assembly during an emergency session last May called to deal with the state's savings and loan crisis, the 26 state-insured thrifts with assets of $40 million or more are required to obtain federal insurance by today or face liquidation or a forced merger.

But the statute gives MDIF the power to extend the deadline for up to 90 days if thrifts have been denied federal insurance.

The Maryland attorney general's office advised MDIF Tuesday that it could grant extensions even if thrifts have not been formally denied FSLIC coverage.

"If they haven't gotten FSLIC, you can treat it as a denial," said Deputy Attorney General Dennis M. Sweeney in explaining the state's interpretation of the statute.

State officials had been searching for more than a week for a legal mechanism that would allow the two thrifts to miss the legislative deadline without being forced into state conservatorship.

"It would have been worthless to turn them over to a conservator when we expect them to receive FSLIC soon," said MDIF spokesman John Rydell.

Of the 102 state-chartered and privately insured thrifts affected by the savings and loan crisis that began in May, 41 have received full federal insurance and all but 12 are operating under no withdrawal restrictions.

But three thrifts with more than $40 million in assets remain under state control. Old Court Savings & Loan, the Baltimore association where depositor runs sparked the crisis, is in receivership and is being liquidated by the state.

The state is seeking buyers for two other large thrifts under conservatorship, Community Savings and Loan of Bethesda and First Maryland Savings and Loan of Silver Spring.

The state also has control of a fourth association, Ridgeway Savings and Loan, a Catonsville thrift with $17 million in assets.

More than $1.2 billion in deposits remain frozen at the four associations seized by the state, but Gov. Harry Hughes has promised to outline by next week a plan for allowing the more than 100,000 depositors at those institutions access to their funds.