HSBC Holdings, the London-based parent of Marine Midland Banks in Buffalo, has emerged as the likeliest buyer for most of the U.S. banking operation of National Westminster Bank PLC, say sources close to Marine Midland.

Spokesmen for HSBC and Natwest declined to comment, as a matter of policy. In a recent interview, however, James H. Cleave, president and chief executive of Marine Midland, disclosed that it was looking to acquire another U.S. institution with up to $20 billion of assets. Jersey City- based National Westminster Bancorp has around $32 billion of U.S. assets.

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