Norwest Corp. announced Wednesday it would acquire a $15 billion servicing portfolio and operations center from London's Barclays Bank PLC.

No price was given, but a source close to the deal said it was about $210 million. Barclays said it would make a profit of about $50 million on the sale.

The Barclays mortgage subsidiary has been on the selling block since at least last month. It still has some origination capacity that it is trying to sell.

This is the third major mortgage acquisition by Norwest in a year. In late 1994, it acquired Directors Mortgage Loan Corp., Riverside, Calif., and earlier in the year it bought the mortgage unit of Michigan National Bank.

Consolidation is hot these days as small players get out of the shrinking home loan market and large contenders get in deeper with multiple acquisitions. Chase Manhattan Bank, which last summer bought American Residential Mortgage Corp., is now said to be buying negotiating to buy a loan servicing company from Goldman Sachs & Co.

"We continue to grow our servicing portfolio as part of a strategy to build our revenue stream," said Mark Oman, president of Norwest Mortgage, Des Moines, Iowa. "At the same time, a majority of Barclays servicing portfolio was originated by Norwest Mortgage."

By regaining these customers, Mr. Oman said, it is "an opportunity to access customers that are familiar with us as a company and gives us the opportunity to cross-sell."

The earlier deal between Norwest and Barclay's has been a source of friction between the two in recent months. A source close to the deal said the agreement included a clause that barred any lawsuits between the two over the portfolio.

Mr. Oman said Norwest will continue to use the servicing center, employees and equipment it acquired in the deal.

"It is easier in these transactions to leave the servicing in place and much easier to manage when we keep the servicing center in place," Mr. Oman said. "We don't have to hire, train and move employees somewhere else." He said Norwest would hire a majority of Barclays's employees.

"We believe customers like to be serviced in a location that is geographically close to where they live," Mr. Oman said.

With increasing interest rates these days and almost no prepayments, servicing rights are more valuable than before and make an attractive acquisition to large lenders looking to expand business. It is good timing for servicers looking to get out.

"Barclays strategy in the United States is to concentrate on serving investment banking clients, particularly those whose requirements are global," said Richard Webb, Barclays North America chief executive officer. "A mortgage servicing business does not easily fit that objective."

Barclays serviced many Norwest loans beginning in 1989 through a three- year deal. Barclays bought servicing rights on a flow basis from Norwest Corp.

Barclays financial troubles were due in large part to a poorly-timed expansion of its servicing portfolio by more than 300% from 1989 to 1992. When customers refinanced and prepaid loans, Barclays was forced to make heavy writedowns on the value of its servicing assets.

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