The lead subsidiary of Wells Fargo & Co. on Friday announced a $1 billion loan program for African-American small-business owners.

To determine whether they qualify for the $5,000 to $100,000 unsecured loans, small-business owners can sign on to "NetNoir Online," an African- American-oriented Web site.

To qualify, owners must have been operating their businesses for at least three years; may not have declared bankruptcy with the last decade; must have solid personal and business credit histories; and must be running a profitable business.

A business banking account with Wells Fargo is another prerequisite. San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, which announced June 8 that it would merge with Norwest Corp. of Minneapolis, established a $1 billion small business program for women in 1995 which was expanded to $10 billion in 1996. A $1 billion small business loan program was created for Latinos last year.

- Olaf de Senerpont Domis

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