Fleet Financial Group was said Wednesday to be in talks to buy credit card specialist Advanta Corp.

Reached at Advanta's Spring House, Pa., headquarters, Fleet vice chairman Michael Zucchini referred calls to a press spokesman. The spokesman, James Mahoney, said he could not comment on rumors.

Advanta, which has been on the market for a year, is expected to fetch about $44.50 a share, or roughly $800 million, market experts said.

One source said attorneys for both companies are ironing out details of a transaction and could announce a deal next week.

But others dismissed the idea of a merger, noting that Fleet had recently announced plans to acquire two large investment businesses - discount brokerage Quick & Reilly and Columbia Management Corp. One pointed out that Boston-based Fleet has been de-emphasizing credit cards and recently spun off its card operation.

Fleet's investment banker is said to be Lehman Brothers Inc.

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