Florida's BankAtlantic Bancorp has called off a deal to acquire a controlling stake in one of the state's largest family-operated real estate development companies.

BankAtlantic chairman Alan Levan said his company scrutinized Delray Beach-based Oriole Homes Corp. but decided not to buy a $22.4 million stake because it would not immediately add to earnings.

Mr. Levan said his Fort Lauderdale banking company is still interested in real estate investments. "We're still looking for a company that will give us a platform to expand into real estate," he said.

In a written statement, Oriole chairman Richard Levy said the company would remain independent.

Samuel J. Beebe, an analyst at William R. Hough & Co., said shareholders should be pleased that BankAtlantic canceled the agreement.

"It's good they could back away," Mr. Beebe said. "Some people would be bullheaded and try to make it work."

Mr. Beebe said he is confident that $2.6 billion-asset BankAtlantic could succeed in real estate development because it was one of the few thrifts left unscathed by the debacle of the 1980s.

Mr. Levan was chairman and chief executive officer of a real estate company before joining BankAtlantic 10 years ago.

BankAtlantic vice chairman John E. Abdo, who would have managed Oriole, is also president of a local residential real estate development company. The thrift shuttered its real estate division in 1989.

"The development activities were enormously successful and contributed enormously to the bottom line," Mr. Levan said.

BankAtlantic wants to move into real estate to increase its sources of noninterest income, Mr. Levan said. Last year it reported net income of $19 million and return on assets of 1.16%. u

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