Countrywide Credit Industries, angling to become the largest mortgage servicer in America, is opening a servicing facility on 18 acres in Plano, Tex.

The California company said it has bought a 253,000-squarefoot office building there from Franklin Life, a unit of American Brands, for $19.25 million.

Countrywide plans to divide its servicing between California and the new site, partly to hedge against earthquakes and other natural disasters in California.

Nearing No. 1 Ranked Fleet

Countrywide was servicing $66.5 billion of mortgages as of June 30, up 33% just since the beginning of the year. That put it within striking distance of No. 1 ranked Fleet Mortgage Group, which services $68.2 billion.

Countrywide, already the nation's largest mortgage originator, is expected to produce nearly $50 billion of loans this year.

Countrywide was drawn, to Texas by its business climate and pool of available workers, said vice chairman Angelo Mozilo.

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