First Union Corp. has promoted Robert E. Healy to managing director and head of its loan syndication group.

A veteran of 15 years in Chemical Banking Corp.'s loan syndication group, the 42-year-old Mr. Healy has been a managing director in First Union's syndication unit for the last two years. He replaces Alice L. Lehman, who recently took over as managing director of corporate communications and community reinvestment.

Mr. Healy said he expects the bank to move up in the rankings of syndicated lenders. But he emphasized that the bank's approach to the market does not lend itself to generating huge deal volumes.

"We would like to continue to move up in the tables, but our footprint is more of a middle-market and large-middle-market approach," Mr. Healy said. "Servicing that kind of franchise is inconsistent with a high place in the league tables."

First Union ranked 10th overall in leading large corporate loans through June 1996, with 20 deals worth a total of $3.8 billion and a 2% market share, according to Loan Pricing Corp.

"Loan syndications is a relatively new official area for First Union where they have been seeing nice growth," said Sandra J. Flannigan, a bank analyst at Merrill Lynch & Co. "Given their customer base and the opportunity to leverage off of that, we would think there would be continuing good growth potential."

The group, which was formed in January 1994, has 12 members and specializes in insurance, health care, communications, oil and gas, forest products, and utilities.

In the past year, First Union led a $400 million refinancing for Bankers Life, a subsidiary of Conseco Co.

Additionally, the bank and its cross-town rival NationsBank Corp. led a $625 million loan for the Delcor Inc. buyout loan of National Gypsum.

The bank was also the sole underwriter on $500 million in financing for General Mills when it spun off Red Lobster and Olive Garden restaurants into Darden Restaurants Inc.

Analysts said that loan syndications represent an invaluable element for a large, full-service bank like First Union.

"First Union acquired a large corporate client base" over the last few years, and more specifically with its recent purchase of First Fidelity, said George Bicher, a bank analyst at Alex. Brown & Sons Inc. "As such, they need to fill out the product to keep that customer base happy."

Mr. Healy reports to the head of investment banking, Mark Mahoney.

The bank also recently brought Michael P. Doherty on board from Citicorp to head loan distribution.

"The fact that they hired Mr. Doherty for distribution tells you that they are planning to continue to grow," said a capital markets expert at another bank.

"At this point," said the banker, "they are a force to be reckoned with."

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