SAN FRANCISCO -- First Nationwide Financial Corp., Ford Motor Co.'s thrift holding company, reported a $44 million loss for the first quarter, compared with a $17 million deficit in the year-ago period.

During the most recent quarter, Ford reached an agreement to sell its San Francisco-based First Nationwide Bank thrift unit to Texas banker Gerald J. Ford and financier Ronald O. Perelman for approximately $1.1 billion.

The transaction is expected to close in about six months.

In a modest revival of core earnings, the thrift unit posted net income of $17 million in the quarter, up from $2 million in the 1993 first quarter.

Revaluation Reflected

The difference in performance between the parent and the operating unit reflects a mark-to-market revaluation of securities held by the holding company plus the transfer from the thrift in recent years of about $1.2 billion in problem assets. The thrift had no nonperforming assets at the end of March.

Ford said it would sell the company's problem assets, primarily commercial real estate, as market conditions permit.

As previously announced, the auto company took a $475 million pre-tax charge against earnings in the quarter, or $440 million after tax, in connection with the First Nationwide sale. Reflecting the charge, Ford's financial services group posted a $51 million loss.

Treatment of Goodwill

The charge included a $175 million provision for losses on retained assets and a $300 million writedown of goodwill from previous acquisitions. Goodwill, the premium paid over book value for an acquisition, is treated as an asset on the balance sheet.

First Nationwide Bank has about $15.5 billion of assets. Three other Ford financial services units reported solid first-quarter results, generating a $389 million profit for the group before the special charge.

The units include Ford Motor Credit as well as two consumer and commercial finance companies, The Associates and USL Capital.

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