NationsBank Corp. is cobbling together a new venture aimed at raising its profile in the increasingly competitive business of extending subprime mortgage loans.

The banking company is preparing to merge Portfolio Acceptance Corp. - a Dallas-based unit that lends to people with impaired credit - with a New Jersey-based home equity operation, executives confirmed. The new business, which will be based in Dallas, is expected to begin operations this spring as a division of the company's NationsCredit Corp. subsidiary.

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