First City Bancorporation of Texas gained a 90-day extension on a federal deadline to raise capital or arrange a merger, but the ailing company said its equity needs have risen 50%, to $300 million.

The agreement, announced late last Friday, gave some much-needed breathing room to First City, whose tangible common equity at Sept. 30 equaled a slim 1.1% of total assets.

Still, experts held out little hope that the company, with $11.4 billion in assets, could achieve its recapitalization goal.

Analyst Skeptical

"I can't imagine where that amount of capital would come from," said David Berry, a banking analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc., New York.

Indeed, the higher recapitalization hurdle has reinforced some observers' belief that First City will ultimately require federal assistance. However, some favorable turns of events have disposed regulators to take their time in enforcement proceedings with First City:

Funding is stable; new chairman and chief executive C. Ivan Wilson has apparently established credibility with regulators; and the accelerated takeover provisions of the new banking law won't be implemented until the fall of 1992.

First City spokesman James Day said on Monday that the company was in "continuing discussions" with potential buyers and investors. He said a loss of $117.8 million during the second and third quarters prompted the company to raise its recapitalization target.

First City began searching for additional capital in the fall of 1990. The concern cited most often is the company's collecting bank, which contains $332 million of distressed assets left over from its 1988 rescue engineered by A. Robert Abboud.

The unit is loaded with realty assets and has suffered a continuous decline in value. Uncertainty about the ultimate sales prices of the collecting bank assets in turn has put off potential buyers.

Several potential buyers who have looked at First City's books privately say they are reluctant to make a purchase without federal assistance.

That possibility won't come soon, however, thanks to procedural delays in implementing "early intervention" legislation. Under the new law, regulators must take action when an institution's tangible equity capital falls below 2% of total assets.

Comptroller's office spokeswoman Leonora Cross said federal regulatory agencies would have until next fall to devise regulations and procedures implementing the new law.

The apparent front-runner in a potential assisted transaction is Banc Onel Corp., Columbus, Ohio.

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