A.G. Edwards Inc., a St. Louis-based brokerage firm, has asked the government for permission to charter a federal thrift.

If the Office of Thrift Supervision approves the Sept. 9 application, which was made public Monday, the company would use the charter to offer trust services nationwide.

"The anticipated benefits derived from the ability to offer trust and related services nationwide through (a federal thrift) clearly offset the cost of establishing" the thrift, according to the application.

A.G. Edwards owns four trust companies in Missouri, New Jersey, Florida, and Texas. To expand, the firm would have to establish separate state- chartered trust companies and comply with different rules in each state it wishes to enter.

A federal thrift charter would permit the brokerage to offer trust services without geographic restrictions. A.G. Edwards officials were unavailable Monday to comment on the application.

The new thrift, which would be called A.G. Edwards Trust Co., would sell personal and retirement plan trust services.

The holding company's main subsidiary, A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc., is a securities broker-dealer that offers stocks, bonds, mutual funds, certificates of deposit, and annuities through 508 offices in every state.

Eight securities firms now own thrifts, according to the OTS. For example, Merrill Lynch & Co. in May chartered a thrift to streamline the marketing of its trust business. If the A.G. Edwards application is approved, it would become one of more than 500 unitary thrift holding companies that own a single thrift and engage in a broad range of nonbanking activities.

Twenty-six companies have applied for thrift charters this year, twice the number filed in all of 1996, the OTS said.

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