Retailers borrowed $30 billion in the first half, and the full-year total may top 1996's $41 billion by 50%, according to Andrew Hensel, a vice president in BankAmerica Corp.'s loan syndications and trading research group.

The largest area of activity has been in grocery stores, where a number of loans were made to acquisitive superregional chains such as Kroger Co., Bruno's Inc., and Safeway Inc.

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