Federal regulators told bidders for Guaranty Financial Group Inc. that they have chosen a winner to take over the crippled Texas bank, according to people familiar with the situation.

People involved in the process said the winner appears to be Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA, the second-largest bank in Spain by stock-market value. A purchase of Guaranty by BBVA would build on the foothold the bank has established during the past several years, including the $9.6 billion purchase of Compass Bancshares Inc., of Birmingham, Ala., in 2007.

Bids for Guaranty, an Austin, Texas-based bank that was built from the remnants of financial institutions that were crippled in the savings-and-loan crisis of the late 1980s, were due Tuesday. Losing bidders were told of the results Wednesday, and an announcement is expected by the end of the week.

According to people familiar with the auction, the most likely scenario is that regulators would seize Guaranty's banking unit, Guaranty Bank, and then sell all or most of it to the winning bidder. That is similar to the government's handling of Colonial Bank, the Colonial BancGroup Inc. unit that failed last Friday and was sold to BB&T Corp. A spokeswoman for BBVA's U.S. unit declined to comment.

In a statement, John Wessman, executive vice president at Guaranty, said: "We are open for business. We continue to work with our regulators. We are focused on providing the best customer service possible and believe we can avoid any disruptions to our customers. As a member of the FDIC, Guaranty depositors enjoy the same coverage as customers of other FDIC [Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.] member banks."

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