PNC Bank Corp. has scrapped its plans to sell Sears Mortgage Corp.'s western production branches later this year when it acquires Sears Mortgage Banking Group.

Pittsburgh-based PNC said Tuesday that negotiations to sell the branches to a group led by Arthur D. Ringwald, executive vice president at Sears Mortgage Corp., were "discontinued." No reason was given. The bank said it would not try to sell the branches to anyone else.

The decision to retain the branches came as a surprise. PNC had said when it announced the Sears deal that it wanted to remain an eastern regional bank and appeared eager to shed Sears' western assets.

No executives from PNC were available for comment but a spokesman said the bank changed its mind because "those are high-production offices and we've determined it's more profitable to retain them."

Mr. Ringwald and his group would have gained control of about 30 branches in 12 states west of the Mississippi that in 1992 produced $2.5 billion in loans.

At the time that PNC announced it plans, Mr. Ringwald said he was excited at the prospect of having his own mortgage company.

He said the deal presented him with "an opportunity to do something I've always wanted to do: be an entrepreneur."

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