WASHINGTON -- First American Bankshares Inc. posted a $31.7 million loss for the first quarter, increasing pressure on a trustee to arrange a quick sale.

The Washington-based company, which has $7.8 billion in assets and operates banks in four states, is reeling from real estate losses and its ties to scandal-plagued Bank of Credit and Commerce International.

The latest loss, following a $358.3 million deficit for all of last year, turns up the heat for a sale, which was ordered last year by the Federal Reserve. "This is not an entity that is going to improve with age," said one prominent banking lawyer.

Possibilities

Among possible suitors, according to analysts: CoreStates Financial Corp., Philadelphia; Mellon Bank Corp., Pittsburgh; First Union Corp., Charlotte, N.C.; and Allied Irish Banks, which operates First Maryland Bancorp.

The Federal Reserve ordered First American to be sold last year after discovering that BCCI secretly controlled it, allegedly in violation of U.S. banking laws.

After almost a year of wrangling over legal red tape, shareholders of First American's parent voted this month to place the banking company in the hands of trustee Harry W. Albright, paving the way for a sale.

Mr. Albright's appointment still must be approved by the U.S. District Court in Washington. A sale could come in the next few months.

The first-quarter loss compares with a $20.7 million loss in the year-earlier quarter.

The company, which has banks in Maryland, Washington, Virginia, and New York, set aside $48.7 million for possible loan losses and credit-related expenses, compared with a $40 million provision a year ago and $206.6 million for all of 1991.

Analysts had mixed views on First American's value.

"Its franchise used to be considered valuable, but it is no longer," said John Lyons, managing principal of Lyons, Zomback & Ostrowski, a consulting firm based in New York.

But Edward Furash, president of Furash & Co., a Washington bank consulting firm, said First American's ongoing and relatively large loan-loss provisions could make the bank more attractive in the long run.

"It is creating a portfolio of better value," he said. "I would tend to see the glass as half full."

Nonperforming assets rose to $634.2 million at the end of the first quarter, compared with $606 million for the same time a year ago, and $628.6 million at the end of 1991. They represent 8% of total assets.

Deposits declined to $6.7 billion during the first quarter, down from $8.6 billion the same time a year ago, and down from $7.1 billion for all of 1991.

Assets fell to $7.8 billion at the end of the first quarter, compared with $10.6 billion the same time a year ago, and $8.4 billion at end of 1991.

The bank meets its capital requirements with tangible capital of 4.51% for the first quarter, compared with 4.58 at yearend.

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