Wachovia Corp. has entered into preliminary talks with a handful of possible buyers people familiar with the company told the Wall Street Journal.

The company is the latest in a parade of banks to look for safety in the arms of a suitor amid concerns that the weak economy is pushing them deeper into peril. Washington Mutual Inc.'s late-Thursday failure rattled the shares of other troubled banks, and shares in Wachovia fell 27 percent on Friday as investors fretted about its massive mortgage portfolio.

Investors are growing concerned that a host of banks nationwide, both large and small, could come under fresh pressure to either raise more capital or else find someone willing to buy them.

Wachovia is talking to potential buyers including Wells Fargo & Co., Banco Santander of Spain and Citigroup, people familiar with the situation told the Wall Street Journal. Wachovia officials don't believe they need to rush into a deal, and the bank isn't feeling immediate pressure on its financial condition, people familiar with the company said.

Wachovia declined to comment on the discussions. Earlier Friday, a spokeswoman said the bank is "aggressively addressing our challenges." Since June, Wachovia has opened 745,000 new checking accounts, she added, indicating confidence among its customers.

Banco Santander, Citigroup and Wells Fargo declined to comment.

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