When it comes to small business loans, nobody makes more than NationsBank Corp.

The $4.2 billion of small commercial and industrial loans reported by the banks owned by the Charlotte-based company was the most reported by any of the 50 largest bank holding companies in the country.

The company's portfolio of small business loans grew 27.1% over the level reported at June 30, 1993, to leapfrog Banc One Corp. into first place.

For the June 30, 1993, period, Banc One ranked first with $4.3 billion of small business loans. Accounting changes reduced that level to less than $3.4 billion this year.

The rankings are based on C&I loans with original notes of less than $1 million reported on June 30 call data. While these loans are typically considered small business loans because of their size, they do not have to be loans to small companies.

Regardless of what the numbers show, analysts advise using caution when reading the data.

Because the June 30 report is just the second such report, bankers are still grappling with what they should include as loans to small commercial and industrial companies. As a result, analysts say year-over-year comparisons may not be reliable.

Though NationsBank was the most prolific in the group, the bank where small loans accounted for the largest share of its total C&I portfolio was Norwest Corp.

The Minneapolis-based company had $2.7 billion of small business loans at midyear, which accounted for 47.8% of its total commercial portfolio.

Norwest edged out UJB Financial Corp. of Princeton, N.J., and SouthTrust Corp. of Birmingham, Ala., for the highest percentage of business loans of less than $1 million.

UJB Financial's $1.1 billion of small business loans amounted to 43.3% of its total loan portfolio, just ahead of SouthTrust's 42.2%.

Citicorp was the runaway leader in the number of small business loans on its June 30 books. Its 107,677 was 15.5% ahead of BankAmerica's 93,228. Wells Fargo's 84,670 small loans put the San Francisco-based bank holding company in third place.

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