After a federal takeover on Monday, San Diego-based HomeFed Bank's much-ballyhooed sale remains clouded by the thrift-bailout agency's funding crisis.

HomeFed, with about $12.4 billion in assets, failed after an ill-fated venture into construction lending left it virtually without capital and with a bulging portfolio of sour loans. It is the nation's eight-largest savings institution and the biggest ever to be put into receivership.

As in the case of other failed thrifts, HomeFed's sale will be delayed until Congress provides the Resolution Trust Corp. funds to dispose of seized institutions. The agency ran out of money for thrift resolutions in April.

Waiting for Congress

The timing of HomeFed's sale depends on how quickly Congress acts, said Elisabeth N. Spector, the RTC's director of accelerated resolutions.

"If we got the money today, we could resolve it by the end of October," she said.

Regulators previously tried to sell HomeFed under the accelerated resolution program, a procedure aimed at selling troubled institutions without putting them through formal federal takeovers.

HomeFed, with its network of some 200 branches in California, was one of the accelerated program's crown jewels.

After HomeFed was put up for sale last April, a bevy of investment bankers and thrift acquisition specialists descended on the institution. But, without money, regulators could not proceed, forcing a takeover.

Receivership may further erode HomeFed's franchise and increase costs to the government, but it will not substantially alter regulators' plans for selling the thrift. "Not all that much will change," said Ms. Spector.

The RTC plans to sell HomeFed under what it calls the "coordinated institution marketing" procedure.

Under the program, an institution's deposits, branches, and assets, including nonperformers, are put up for sale at the same time, though they may be sold to separate buyers. The program aims to rid the RTC of problem assets quickly as possible.

Previously, the RTC sold only branches, deposits, and high-quality loans, keeping problems assets for later sale.

Potential buyers of HomeFed branches and deposits include "every major player in the state and a number from out of state," said E. Gareth Plank, an analyst with Dean Witter Reynolds, San Francisco.

California's three major banks - Bank America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co. and First Interstate Bancorp - plus thrift companies such as H.F. Ahmanson & Co., Great Western Financial Corp, and Golden West Financial Corp. were all said to have reviewed bid packages under the accelerated program and may remain interested.

But, given the long decline of HomeFed's franchise and a reduced demand for a deposits in California, many analysts doubt the thrift's branches will be sold to a single buyer.

"I find it hard to believe it can be sold as a single unit," said Allan G. Bortel, president of Dakin Securities Corp., a San Francisco investment bank.

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