Fleet Financial Group's talks to buy Advanta Corp. have shifted to purchasing only its credit card operations, market sources said. Fleet could announce a deal to buy the division as early as Monday, they said.
Speculation on how much the credit card operation would command ranged widely, from $23 to $44.50 a share. The division generates 70% to 75% of Advanta's revenue. The Spring House, Pa.-based credit card issuer also has a mortgage operation, leasing company, and venture capital division.
Bank analyst Michael Granger of Fox-Pitt Kelton Inc. said it would make sense for Boston-based Fleet to buy only the credit card unit. "They just sold their home equity business; why would they run out and buy another one?" he asked.
This year 100% of Advanta's profits are coming from the noncard subsidiaries. Mr. Granger said, however, that the card unit should turn around next year.
Market sources said General Electric Corp. remains in the bidding but doubted it would prevail.
"Fundamentally, GE is very skilled at fixing things that are broken," said one source who declined to be identified. "But there is nothing fatal about Advanta, particularly after its strong third-quarter earnings. Fleet would be the more sensible partner."