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BANKING/FINANCE : Universal Savings to Close Branch in Santa Ana, Receives Purchase Bids

January 15, 1988|James S. Granelli, Times Staff Writer

Universal Savings Bank, the Orange-based savings and loan that state regulators seized briefly during the summer, will close its Santa Ana office Feb. 4, leaving the S&L with nine branches in Orange and Los Angeles counties.

Universal's president, George C. Hale, could not be reached during the last two days to explain why the institution was closing the branch at 2140 N. Main St.

One reason could be efficiency. The branch's deposits accounted for about 2.5% of the S&L's $230 million in total deposits at the end of 1986. And the office is within a few miles of the S&L's two branches in Orange.

Meantime, Universal's Australian owner, Unity Corp. Ltd. in Sydney, has been getting unsolicited purchase offers for the S&L, said Christopher Blaxland, a Unity director and chairman of Universal. Blaxland made the statement in an interview before the Santa Ana branch office closing was announced.

Though he would not comment on whether Unity is considering any of the offers, Blaxland said the company has "no serious negotiations" pending.

Universal was seized by state regulators in mid-June after two Universal executives claimed that the S&L planned to transfer illegally a total of $10 million in loans overseas for the benefit of Unity's chairman, Garry Carter. That takeover was unique because the S&L was a healthy institution.

Three weeks later, the S&L won an unprecedented court ruling overturning the state's action and putting the S&L's control back in the hands of Unity. Expenses related to the battle contributed to Universal's loss of $43,000 for the first 9 months of 1987.

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