The Money Store Inc. is bidding to become a major player in the lucrative sub-prime auto lending business. And analysts say its national branch network and advertising program give it a good chance of success.

The Union, N.J.-based consumer finance company announced last week that it had established a unit in Sacramento, Calif., to buy sales contracts from both franchised and independent auto dealers. Best known for its home equity, SBA, and government-guaranteed student loans, The Money Store originated its first auto receivables last month.

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