Champion Mortgage, one of the few large subprime lenders in private hands, has filed with the SEC for permission to make an initial public offering.

But a Champion spokesman said it was also considering other ways to raise capital. The company is weighing the sale of all or part of its assets as an alternative to the IPO, she said.

The company announced Monday that if it decided to go ahead with the IPO it would offer 3.5 million shares, probably at $22 a share,

The deal, which would be underwritten by Lehman Brothers, would leave Champion with 15 million common shares outstanding, along with an option to generate 500,000 more.

Proceeds would be used to repay debt and expand Champion's retail branch network, the company said in a written statement. In addition, principals at the company, owned by chairman Joseph Goryeb and his family, would receive capital.

Other large subprime lenders have been very interested in Champion's northeastern retail network, high-quality loan pool, and brand-name recognition.

The company has turned down several purchase offers in the past year, failed suitors said.

Champion's initial public offering would represent the tail end of a trend for subprime mortgage lenders. In the last year and a half, at least a dozen such companies have gone public.

Champion originated $130 million in loans in the second quarter of 1996, 80% more than the year before. The company originates loans through 14 retail branches in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.

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