The Office of Thrift Supervision on Tuesday gave permission to a fraternal benefits organization, Lutheran Brotherhood of Minneapolis, to buy Metro Community Bank and become a unitary thrift holding company.

Affinity Group, a marketing company in Ventura, Calif., withdrew its application for a thrift charter on Jan. 26, said Kara L. Bue, a lawyer at Thacher Proffitt & Wood in Washington, which represents the company. Nonbanks have 48 applications for thrifts pending at the OTS.

On Monday, the OTS issued a proposal intended to clarify when a holding company may own several thrifts and still be allowed to engage in nonfinancial activities.

Unitary thrift holding companies are typically limited to owning one thrift but are permitted to engage in any form of commerce. Holding companies with more than one thrift are generally restricted to activities permissible for the thrifts themselves.

An exception, created after the industry's crisis in the mid-1980s, allows unitary holding companies that bought additional, failing thrifts from the government to continue their nonfinancial activities.

Among other things, the proposal states that once a unitary thrift holding company is sold, the buyer is not entitled to the exemption. Comments are due April 9.

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