Bank of New York Co. and Fleet Financial Group may soon go ahead with long-delayed plans to sell pieces of their mortgage units in stock offerings.

The two companies have been emboldened by a recent rally in the stocks of mortgage companies. These shares have been gaining because declines in long-term interest rates have strengthened mortgage demand.

Countrywide Credit Industries, the bellwether mortgage banking stock, has surged 47% since late April.

Decisions Hinge on Market

Fleet and Bank of New York insist they have not made final decisions to proceed, but they are clearly showing renewed interest in selling minority stakes in their mortgage units.

"We're moving ahead, but a decisions is still subject to market conditions," said a spokesman for Providence, R.I.-based Fleet.

The recent runup in mortgage stocks "does give us more encouragement," a Bank of New York spokesman said. "But we haven't taken any further action."

The deals could raise the parent companies' capital positions modestly and provide the mortgage units with more flexibility to expand.

Moreover, analysts say, successful offerings could lift the parent companies' stocks by highlighting the value of the mortgage units.

Fleet last week filed fresh details on its plan with the Securities and Exchange Commission, specifying the size of the offering for the first time.

The plan calls for selling 8.3 million shares, or 17.2% of the mortgage operations, for $21.50 to $23.50 a share. That would mean proceeds of $178 million to $195 million.

Bank of New York, meanwhile, has been mulling a plan to sell four million shares of its mortgage unit's common stock, or 47%. While the company has not specified a price range, analysts have estimated the deal could fetch more than $70 million.

At least one mortgage banking company, North American Mortgage Co., Santa Rosa, Calif., has already completed an initial public offering of common stock.

The company, formerly known as Imco Realty Services, sold 5.5 million shares last Wednesday at $11.50 a share. That was slightly below the expected price range of $12 to $13. The stock rose to $12 in the first few hours of trading.

Over the next few weeks, Fleet and Bank of New York are expected to file additional information with the Securities and Exchange Commission and possibly kick off road shows for investors.

A Temporary Lull

The companies have been considering IPOs for months but put the plans on hold this spring when a rise in long-term interest rates depressed mortgage stocks.

Margaretten Financial Corp., a New Jersey mortgage company that went public in January, saw its shares plunge from an offering price of $20 to a low of $11.625. In recent weeks, Margaretten's stock has rebounded sharply, to $16.25 Friday afternoon.

Fleet's mortgage unit, Fleet Mortgage Group, is one of the largest mortgage banking concerns in the country. It processes monthly payments on some $60 billion of loans.

Bank of New York's unit, ARCS Mortgage, services about $8 billion of loans.Offering at a GlanceProposed stock issue byFleet Mortgage Group, Inc.Number of shares 8.3 millionExpected price $21.50 toper share $23.50Total to be $178.45 millionraised to $195.1 millionPercentage ofcompany 17%being soldLead manager Goldman, Sachs & Co.Source: Company reports

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