Some securities analysts are speculating that NationsBank Corp. could join in the bidding for Great Western Financial Corp. But others are skeptical, saying the Charlotte, N.C., institution already has its hands full with its Boatmen's Bancshares acquisition.

Norwest Corp. and Washington Mutual are reportedly weighing white-knight bids for the Chatsworth, Calif., thrift company. Great Western has received a hostile bid from H.L. Ahmanson & Co.

The primary source of the speculation about NationsBank was remarks made by its chief executive officer, Hugh L. McColl.

He recently told a trade journal that he would like to expand to California.

Another reason to merge would be to combine the institutions' mortgage banking operations, bank analysts said. Cost savings in a NationsBank-Great Western merger wouldn't equal those foreseen in a deal between Ahmanson and Great Western. But the reductions could be high enough for NationsBank to make a credible offer.

"You could see cost savings of 20% at a minimum if you put the mortgage servicing in NationsBank's hands," theorized one analyst, who did not want to be identified. "They could make a high bid-at least $50 per share."

Other analysts, however, were skeptical. "They've got their hands full with the Boatmen's merger," said Anthony Davis at Dean Witter Reynolds, New York. "Maybe they are interested in the California thrifts. But I don't think so."

In any case, a combination of NationsBank and Great Western would create yet another megaservicer. NationsBank reported servicing mortgages worth $96.4 billion in 1996. Great Western serviced $44.3 billion.

Aggressive buying has made NationsBank's mortgage business a big one, but Great Western has a stronger presence in the California market.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, in 1995 Great Western had a 3.6% share of the California mortgage market, making it the fifth-largest player there. NationsBank's share was 2.7%, the ninth largest in the state.

Buying Great Western would also supplement NationsBank's $21.8 billion deposit base in Florida by $7.1 billion, according to SNL Securities, Charlottesville, Va.

Great Western has a larger share of the Florida mortgage business.

In 1995, the thrift had a 2.6% market share, while NationsBank had only 2.1%.

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