Wachovia Corp. has entered into preliminary discussions with a handful of potential suitors, including Banco Santander SA of Spain, Wells Fargo & Co., and Citigroup Inc., according to a person familiar with the situation.

The talks underscore escalating efforts by the Charlotte, N.C., bank to escape mounting loan losses and a plunging stock price. On Friday, Wachovia shares tumbled 27%, or $3.70, to $10 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

Wachovia officials don't believe they need to rush into a deal, and the bank isn't feeling any liquidity pressures, a person familiar with the company said. Still, given the uncertainty swirling through the economy, financial markets and the U.S. banking industry, Wachovia executives are exploring various strategic options.

Bank executives are expected to be in New York this weekend to discuss possible deals.

Wachovia declined to comment on the discussions. Earlier Friday, a spokeswoman said the bank is "aggressively addressing our challenges" and "working to strategically strengthen and manage capital and liquidity in this challenging environment." The bank's deposit base, stretching from California to the Northeast, is "large and stable," the Wachovia spokeswoman added.

Banco Santander, Citigroup and Wells Fargo declined to comment.

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