First Union Corp.'s capital markets group has completed syndication and closed a $500 million credit facility for Darden Restaurants Inc., the Orlando-based parent of Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and China Coast Restaurants.

First Union National Bank of Florida served as administrative agent and First Union Capital Markets Group served as arranger for the facility, the largest fully underwritten by the bank to date.

Darden, a $3.1 billion corporation, is the world's largest full-service restaurant organization. It became a publicly traded company May 15 when General Mills Inc. spun off its restaurant business into Darden.

The $500 million credit facility consists of a $250 million 364-day facility and a $250 million five-year facility. The facilities will initially be used to fund a repayment to General Mills of certain intercompany liabilities and will also provide for general corporate needs and commercial paper backup on a continuing basis.

Bank of America National Trust and Savings Association and SunBank served as co-agents. Participants included Barnett Bank of Central Florida, Comerica Bank, Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank Ltd., Fleet Bank, Norwest Bank Minnesota, Societe Generale, and Wachovia Bank of Georgia.

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