HomeSide Lending, the company formed from the mortgage units of Barnett Banks Inc. and Bank of Boston, is edging closer to selling stock to the public.

The Jacksonville, Fla., lender has asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to declare $200 million of its debt tradable on the open market, according to documents filed with the regulator. Analysts say the move often foreshadows an initial offering, but company officials say they're in no rush.

"This represents a step towards creating a market and gaining acceptance by public investors," said Todd Vencil, an analyst with SNL Securities, Charlottesvillesville, Va.

HomeSide executives say the company is indeed looking toward a stock sale, but not immediately. Next year's first or second quarters are possible times, said chief financial officer Betty L. Francis.

HomeSide would consider moving sooner, "only if the market was really attractive," Ms. Francis said.

Right now, conditions are not cooperating. The market for new stock, which was red hot earlier this year, has cooled considerably in recent weeks.

Going public would give HomeSide access to the capital it needs to fuel mortgage operations.

Industry analysts declined to estimate how much HomeSide could raise, saying its growth plans and market conditions would dictate that figure. HomeSide ranks as the industry's seventh-largest mortgage company, based on $75 billion of combined servicing assets at yearend 1995.

One industry analyst said HomeSide would be better off waiting until next year for a public offering. The company's unique structure - a joint venture of two banks and two venture capital groups - needs time to jell, said Hal Schroeder, a banking analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, New York.

"They should give the company a full chance to really form itself into a viable operation," Mr. Schroeder said.

Ms. Francis said that before any stock offering takes place, the company wants to finish registering the notes as public securities, a move expected to be sanctioned this summer.

HomeSide's SEC filing, dated July 17, covers $200 million of notes that were sold in May to private investors. Mutual fund companies, including Fidelity Investments, bought 60% of the notes; private money managers and insurance companies accounted for the rest, said investment bankers involved with the sale.

The deal supplied investors with a stream of income from interest payments, but prohibited them from selling any of the securities.

Under the new structure, the debt could be freely sold to investors. HomeSide would also have to file regular financial statements such as quarterly and annual reports.

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