NationsBank Corp., Charlotte, N.C., said it ranked No. 1 among U.S. banks in making SBA-guaranteed loans to small businesses in 1997, according to statistics compiled by the Small Business Administration.

The banking company made 1,178 SBA-guaranteed loans for about $112 million in 1997, an average of roughly $95,000 per loan. NationsBank is considered a "preferred" lender by the SBA in all 16 states where it operates retail banks. Preferred-lender status allows the bank to expedite the loan approval process for small-business customers.

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