WASHINGTON -- Federal regulators are expected today to seize American Savings Bank, a prominent New York-area thrift, and sell its $2.8 billion in deposits to as many as eight banks, sources said.

The buyers, according to an employee at American Savings, include Chase Manhattan Corp., Bank of New York Co., Republic New York Corp., First Fidelity Bancorp., and Banco Popular.

A source involved in the deal said that Banco Popular, which is based in Puerto Rico and has operations in New York, bid for the entire deposit franchise.

Based in White Plains

But the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. decided to divide the 38 branches of American Savings, which is based in the New York suburb of White Plains and has offices in New York City.

The acquirers were interested only in deposits, so the FDIC will be stuck with the thrift's $3.2 billion in assets.

Chase, Republic, and Banco Popular declined to comment, as did the FDIC. Spokesmen for Bank of New York and First Fidelity could not be reached.

The identities of the other buyers could not be learned, but billionaire investor Robert Bass, who had looked at a government-assisted acquisition, was not among them.

Delay a Possibility

A seizure of the insolvent American Savings has been long expected and has been put off previously. The sources said that yet another delay was still possible.

The deal was first scheduled to close May 1, but regulators changed their plans because New York City was bracing for demonstrations in the wake of the Rodney King verdict. Federal officials did not want to stir any urban unrest by boarding up bank branches.

Then a company controlled by Mr. Bass entered the bidding picture, further delaying the deal. The FDIC was interested because Mr. Bass wanted to buy the thrift's deposits and assets.

But the Bass group could not strike a deal with the government. One source close to the transaction said Mr. Bass wanted broad discretion to return troubled assets to th FDIC. Bass representatives could not be reached for comment.

Regulators on Scene

An employee at American Savings said that FDIC employees began arriving Wednesday for the Friday shutdown.

Savings banks are a massive problem facing the FDIC. Like many other Northeast savings banks, American Savings was brought down by soured real estate loans. Its equity capital was negative $4.3 million as of March 31.

American Savings will be the eighth savings bank taken over by regulators in 1992. After the failure, $17 billion in savings bank assets will have been seized this year.

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