Norwest Mortgage Inc. was the unchallenged leader in loan securitizations through Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae last year, finishing with $45.4 billion of sales, or about 10.1% of the market.

It opened up a big lead on No. 2 Countrywide Home Loans, which sold $31 billion to the government-sponsored securitizers for a share of 6.9%.

The compilation was provided by Mortgage Marketplace, an American Banker newsletter.

Norwest was individually No. 1 with the Federal National Mortgage Association, or Fannie Mae; Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., or Freddie Mac; and Government National Mortgage Association, or Ginnie Mae. Countrywide captured second place with all three.

The only categories in which Norwest did not lead were adjustable-rate mortgages at Fannie and Freddie. NationsBanc Mortgage, a unit of NationsBank Corp., was first at Fannie with $1.7 billion of ARMs, and Fifth Third Bank was No. 1 in ARMs sold to Freddie, at $541 million.

But in a demonstration of its depth, Norwest was in first place overall in ARM securitizations on the strength of its dominance in Ginnie Maes. It sold about $6.3 billion of ARMs to Ginnie Mae and $6.9 billion overall.

Norwest's 10.1% market share, while swollen by acquisitions, is extraordinary in light of market share patterns in individual market regions. A 10% share is very high for any individual market and enormous in highly competitive markets.

Mark Oman, president and chief executive of Norwest Mortgage, said, "More Realtors and builders than ever before chose to refer their homebuyers to us for financing."

The rankings also tell a tale of market concentration: The top 20 securitizers, shown in the accompanying table, have more than 40% of the market. Several of the top 20 benefited from consolidations.

Market share is becoming an increasingly critical factor in the mortgage business. "We're dealing with a product, mortgages, where it's going to be difficult to expand in years ahead," said Warren Lasko, executive vice president of the Mortgage Bankers Association of America.

"We're looking at markets that are going to be about $750 billion for the next few years," he said. "If you're going to grow, you have to expand share."

Indeed, some major lenders have reported plans to build their retail presence in a bid for market share. They include No. 1 Norwest and No. 2 Countrywide. And PNC Mortgage Corp. recently began a program to add more than 30 retail offices, primarily in the West, along with a handful of wholesale offices.

The data also point up a long-standing strength for Freddie Mac: securitizations for thrifts. While Fannie Mae gets much more business from the top seven institutions, Freddie leads with No. 8 Standard Federal Bank, No. 15 Flagstar Bank, No. 28 Washington Mutual, and a number of other thrifts further down in the rankings.

An exception was H.F. Ahmanson & Co.'s Home Savings of America, which sold $1 billion of loans to Fannie Mae but did no business with Freddie Mac or Ginnie Mae. Home Savings, once a dominant force in mortgages, has been shifting its business emphasis toward consumer finance.

As thrifts like Home Savings shift to new lines of business, they are not looming as large in the securitization market. Said Mr. Lasko: "Competitors of mortgage banking companies have other profitable avenues to pursue."

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