A beleaguered Los Angeles bank has less than a month to raise its capital to sufficient levels and improve its lending procedures or face a possible federal takeover.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency Friday issued a "prompt corrective action" directive to $110 million-asset First Charter Bank, requiring it to raise its Tier I capital to at least 11% of its risk- weighted assets by Sept. 30.

First Charter's Tier 1 capital ratio as of March 30 was 3.31%, according to Duff & Phelps analyst Jerry A. Jones.

The agency also gave the bank 45 days to appoint a senior lending officer to ensure the safety and soundness of the bank's loan department and 30 days to create and implement an effective loan-and-lease review program.

Peter Bustetter, the bank's chief executive, would not comment, nor would the bank issue the press release it had prepared disclosing the development.

"They've had a difficult time over the past three years-plus, primarily due to the real estate market here," said Mr. Jones, who's managing director of Duff & Phelps in Los Angeles.

The bank, whose assets have shrunk nearly in half in three years, began a stock offering early last month in an attempt to raise about $4.6 million, which would represent 70% of the bank's total capital if achieved.

It announced that it had signed a agreement in principle with institutional and individual investors to raise the amount through the sale of noncumulative convertible preferred stock.

This was First Charter's second stock offering in two years. In 1994, the bank raised about $6 million in an effort to stabilize itself after the real estate market tanked.

The bank has had some ups and downs since the late 1980s - mostly downs in recent years, analysts said.

It lost $5 million in 1993, $3.4 million in 1994, and another $4.5 million last year. After the bank reported a loss of $2.8 million for the second quarter of this year, the OCC determined it to be critically undercapitalized and ordered prompt corrective action.

First Charter also lost its Nasdaq listing in July, because its stock dropped under $1 a share.

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