SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ A Texas-based investment firm, Newbridge Capital Ltd., is near a final deal with the South Korean government on an agreement to buy Korea First Bank.

After six months of negotiations, both sides ironed out all major differences and were fine-tuning wording of a formal agreement to be signed soon, officials at Seoul's Financial Supervisory Commission said Friday.

The national news agency Yonhap, quoting unnamed commission officials, said the government and Newbridge will announce their agreement Saturday.

Newbridge had engaged in takeover talks since December to acquire a 51 percent stake in Korea First Bank, in which the Seoul government is the major shareholder.

The two sides extended their talks several times as they differed widely over the value of the bank's assets and terms under which the South Korean government will purchase some of the bank's future bad loans.

President Kim Dae-jung's government insisted on selling debt-ridden Korean banks to foreigners to demonstrate its willingness to open the cloistered domestic financial sector.

Such takeovers will serve as an important vote of confidence in the crisis-hit South Korean economy, Kim has said.