Bank of America long has been a formidable competitor on the California mortgage scene. Just like the big West Coast thrifts, it has done brisk business in writing adjustablerate loans and holding them in its portfolio.

Lately, the bank has been popping up in some other places, too. In February, for example, it snapped up a midsize mortgage company in Minnesota, Bank United. Bank of America, sources say, went on to bid for New Jersey-based Margaretten Financial Corp., one of the largest independent mortgage banks.

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