Trans-america Corp. has asked the government for permission to charter a federal thrift.

The $50 billion-asset San Francisco insurance company said it wants to use the thrift charter to boost its subprime mortgage business.

"The flexibility afforded by the federal savings bank charter, along with its consumer lending focus, make the charter ideal for this purpose," according to the company's June 4 application to the Office of Thrift Supervision.

Transamerica plans to sell its consumer finance unit, Transamerica Financial Services, to Household International by June 30. Transamerica said it decided offering subprime home loans through a federal thrift would be more efficient and less costly.

"The high expense associated with a branch-based retail structure cannot be supported by a lender offering only a single line," according to the application.

Transamerica Financial Services had to obtain licenses and comply with different rules in each of the 44 states it operated in, said John D. Muller, a lawyer with San Francisco law firm Brobeck, Phelger & Harrison.

"It will be much more efficient to deal with one set of rules rather than 44," said Mr. Muller, who prepared the application for Transamerica.

Transamerica plans to centralize its loan processing and servicing functions in the new thrift, which would be headquartered in Reno.

The OTS supervises 18 thrifts owned by insurance companies. Several other large insurers, including State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Co., have announced they may charter federal thrifts.

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