Fleet Financial Group made the largest number of Small Business Administration loans in New England for the 1997 fiscal year, according to the SBA.

Boston-based Fleet made 401 SBA loans for $53.7 million. That's more than 10% of the 3,767 SBA loans for $675 million in New England during that period.

First International Bancorp, parent of First National Bank of New England, ranked second in the region, with 158 SBA loans for $75 million in all, the SBA said.

Fleet also announced plans to offer same-day approval for business loans between $10,000 and $50,000. Tax returns or financial statements are not required for the application.

Fleet began offering the same-day loans in Massachusetts and Maine last week and will introduce the program in Rhode Island and Connecticut this week. The bank will expand the program through its Northeast territory in the first quarter of 1998.

As part of a four-month pilot offering 24-hour credit decisions in Massachusetts and Maine, the bank lent $33 million to small businesses.

Fleet is the nation's sixth-largest bank lender to small businesses. In 1996 the bank made more than $4.3 billion in loans of $1 million or less to small businesses.

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