Weyerhaeuser Mortgage Corp. is closing 13 small wholesale branches and will replace them with three larger offices.

Kevin Gillespie, senior vice president for national loan production, said the restructuring should help build Weyerhaeuser's wholesale production.

The lender will expand its branch in San Diego and make that the West Coast office. An East Coast office will be set up, but a site has not been selected.

The third center, in California's Orange County, will be the company's builder wholesale operation.

The restructuring comes as rumors are swirling about a sale of Weyerhaeuser Mortgage.

The lender is a subsidiary of Weyerhaeuser Co., the forest products colossus based in Tacoma, Wash. The mortgage unit, based in Woodland Hills, Calif., is a very small part of Weyerhaeuser's overall business.

Christine Clifford, vice president of Wholesale Access, a Columbia, Md., research and consulting firm, said she wouldn't be surprised if Weyerhaeuser eventually sells the unit, since the parent could probably better invest in some of its higher-return businesses.

But the mortgage unit also made its first acquisition this year, buying Southwest Colonial, San Diego, in April. This bolstered the company's builder relationships, since Southwest Colonial has six limited partnerships with home builders.

Mr. Gillespie said teams would be set up at the new regional offices to manage sales and operations for specific geographic areas. These new centers will improve Weyerhaeuser's customer service and let the company be more price-competitive, he added.

"We'll be better positioned to process deals much more effectively, quicker, and at lower cost than was possible under the previous structure," Mr. Gillespie said.

But Ms. Clifford noted that Weyerhaeuser's wholesale lending operation is already known for aggressive pricing.

When Weyerhaeuser started its wholesale lending program, she said, prices were "outstandingly low," and it was willing to accept lower margins initially to pick up customers.

It plans to close and fund all wholesale loans in its pipeline but will not originate loans until the three larger offices are opened. This is expected within two months.

Mr. Gillespie added that no restructuring would occur in the retail division.

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