NEW YORK -- Bear Stearns Cos. said it reached agreements with Banco Espanol de Credito and several Spanish savings banks to promote asset securitization in Spain.

The Spanish institutions in the joint venture had formed Titulizacion de Activos SA in May to oversee development and management of a securitization program.

Banesto and its partners -- Caja del Mediterraneo, Unicaja, Ibercaja, Caja Municipal de Burgos, Caja de Castilla la Mancha, and EBN Banco -- have total assets qualing $88 billion.

John C. Sites, executive vice president of Bear Stearns, said the venture is the first of its kind in Spain and follows a similar effort that Bear Stearns launched in France in 1989.

He called the Spanish move "an important step in the continued development of the international asset-backed securities market."

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