Merrill Lynch & Co., New York, said it has an agreement to buy the last piece of Prudential Insurance Company of America's mortgage unit.

The deal had been reported in American Banker.

the final portion of the largest mortgage company ever put on the auction block, will become part of Merrill Lynch's private-client group, which provides services to individuals and small to medium-size businesses.

Terms were not disclosed, but sources with knowledge of the deal put the price tag at $30 million.

LSI, which runs a network of independent real estate appraisers, also provides title searches, title insurance, and loan closing services. The unit will continue to service its current clients, which have included Prudential Home Mortgage, St. Louis; Associates National Mortgage Corp., Irving, Tex.; and Household Financial Services, Pomona, Calif. It also will service Merrill Lynch Credit Corp., the new owner's retail mortgage and credit unit, based in Jacksonville, Fla.

The deal, subject to regulatory approval, is expected to close by June 30, a Merrill Lynch announcement said.

The company still will be based outside Pittsburgh, a Merrill Lynch spokesman said. He said Merrill expects to keep all 450 of the unit's employees.

Prudential had broken up Residential Services Corporation of America unit into three companies for sale more than a year ago.

Prudential Home Mortgage, the lending arm and the largest of the three units, was bought by Norwest Mortgage Inc., Des Moines pushing Norwest's servicing portfolio to more than $140 billion. Residential Information Services LP, the former Lomas Financial Corp. servicing technology unit, was bought by First American Financial Corp.

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