Michigan National Corp. on Tuesday confirmed it has retained Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. as its investment banker amid Wall Street speculation that the struggling outfit soon will be either restructured or sold.

The $10 billion-asset banking company, based in Farmington Hills, Mich., has come under intense pressure in recent months as its performance lagged and some investors demanded that the institution be auctioned.

Price Prospects

Michigan National's stock traded at eight times its average volume on Monday and closed at a 52-week high. The issue rose by $1.375 on Tuesday, closing at $76, or 140% of book value.

Stephanie H. Giroux, a banking analyst with PaineWebber Inc., estimated Michigan National would fetch between $92 and $118 per share if sold this year.

Next year, assuming performance improvement targets are met, the company could fetch between $105 and $130 per share, she said.

A sale by no means is assured, however.

The chairman and chief executive of Michigan National Robert J. Mylod, has adamantly opposed a merger, thus far enjoying director support for his stance. Indeed, sources close to Michigan National say the retention of Keefe does not signal a changed attitude on the executive's part.

In a terse statement, a company spokeswoman said Keefe had been retained "to render advice on various financial matters as needed," declining further comment.

Henry C. Dickson, a banking analyst with Smith Barney Shearson, said further speculation in Michigan National stock appears inevitable, given that the hiring of an investment banker "typically is viewed as a prelude" to a sale.

In its home state, analysts say, potential bidders for Michigan National include Comerica Inc. and NBD Bancorp, Detroit; First of America Bank Corp., Kalamazoo; and Old Kent Financial Corp., Grand Rapids.

There are some questions as to whether Comerica or NBD could get Justice Department clearance, given that both already command sizable shares of the market. And at $10 billion in assets, it is not clear whether Old Kent is of sufficient size to swallow Michigan National.

Two other potential bidders are Banc One Corp. and Huntington Bancshares, both based in Columbus, Ohio. Both already have banking operations in Michigan.

Michigan National this year arranged the sale of its Texas banking operations, and analysts say the company eventually could also sell Independence One Bank of California.

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