BankAmerica Corp.'s buyout of Arbor National Mortgage for $16.35 a share, or about $118 million, announced Monday, sent those involved in-other potential sales of mortgage banks scrambling for a reading on. the implications.

Shares of North American Mortgage Co., which has traded as high as $34.75 on takeover speculation, fell Monday by $2.125, to $28.875, largely in reaction to the news.

North American, based in Santa Rosa, Calif., has since recovered some of the lost ground, trading Wednesday at around $28.75.

But the lower-than-expected price for Arbor, combined with the passing of time, has led some to doubt that North American will be sold.

The reasoning is that Arbor, sold as it was for 18% less than its market capitalization, may have reset the clock for mortgage-banking sales.

"Given the relatively low price paid for Arbor, and the current industry conditions, a precedent may have been set that will be very hard to reverse," said Scott Vandermarck, a vice president at Tri-River Capital.

That idea threw a scare into holders of North American Mortgage, and might, observers say, make a deal less likely.

If the company is unable to get what it deems a fair price, observers say, it may elect to go it alone.

"A lot of people have to sell, North American Mortgage does not have to sell," explained Andrew Newman, an analyst at UBS Securities.

In August, North American's management announced that it was to explore strategic alternatives.

Several banks were rumored to have taken a close look, including NationsBank and Bank of Boston.

NationsBank is now unlikely to make a bid high enough to entice North American to sell, according to sources following the deal.

"I think there might be a pretty high bid-asked spread," said an industry insider who believes that forces within North American may favor remaining independent.

Opinion is divided with many believing that North American will not want to face what may be a difficult 1995 alone.

Some investment bankers also maintain that there is a divide drawn between the largest mortgage banks, such as American Residential Mortgage, and smaller ones like Arbor.

Whatever does happen with North American, most are expecting news soon.

"I think it will sell," said Gareth Plank, an analyst with Mabon Securities, San Francisco "but you can't court forever."

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