ATLANTA -- Texas-based Ponder & Co., a financial adviser that focuses on heath care, has opened an office in Sarasota, Fla., that will serve as the firm's Southeast regional headquarters.

Richard E. Bratton, executive vice president and principal at the firm, will manage the three-person office, which replaces Ponder's Miami branch. Bratton established the Miami office in 1982.

"We are moving the office because we think with a central Florida location, we can better cover the state," Bratton said yesterday. He said that the firm plans to hire two additional staff members in the next six months for the Sarasota office. Ponder currently has 26 employees.

Bratton said the Sarasota office will focus on providing financial advisory services to health-care institutions, but will also serve other local government units, including school districts.

The new office will be housed in temporary quarters until next month, when it will move to its permanent location in the downtown Barnett Bank Building, Bratton said.

Before coming to Ponder, Bratton was a vice president in public finance at Southeast Bank in Miami from 1980 to 1982 and at Continental Bank in Chicago from 1977 to 1980. Previously, he was director of Illinois' Bureau of the Budget.

Bratton is currently a member of the Florida Municipal Finance Officers Association, Healthcare Financial Management Association, and the Florida Hospital Association.

So far this year, Ponder has ranked ninth nationally among financial advisers with a 1.3% market share; its clients have sold 45 issues totaling $2.28 billion. Last year, the firm ranked 10th, with a 1.4% market share based on $3.21 billion of debt.

Among Florida advisers, Ponder has ranked sixth so far this year, with a 3.4% market share garnered from six issues totaling $407 million. In 1992, the firm ranked fifth in the state, with a 4% market share based on $531 million of bonds.

In addition to its Florida office and its Bedford, Tex., headquarters, Ponder has branches in New York City; Chicago; Herrin, Ill.; and Evergreen, Colo. The firm was founded in 1974.

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