Associates First Capital Corp., a specialty finance company, said its application for a thrift charter is on hold.

The Office of Thrift Supervision has suspended considering granting Associates a thrift charter until the company answers a list of questions, an Associates spokesman said. He would not detail the queries.

Associates, the largest home equity lender in the nation, applied for a thrift charter late last year.

Separately, Associates' Canadian subsidiary, Associates Capital Corporation of Canada, closed its acquisition of Beneficial Canada Holdings Inc., the Canadian consumer finance subsidiary of Beneficial Corp.

Terms were not disclosed, but Beneficial said it will record a net after-tax gain of more than $100 million in the first quarter from the sale. Beneficial Canada has 105 offices. With the acquisition, Associates becomes the largest foreign-owned diversified finance company in Canada.

Beneficial announced in October that it would sell its Canadian and German consumer finance subsidiaries. Last month Beneficial hired Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Merrill Lynch & Co. to explore strategic alternatives for the entire company, including a possible sale.

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