After jettisoning a major business unit, National City Corp. (NYSE:NCC) is ready to focus on its primary banking operations.

National City plans to emphasize relationship-based operations through its core retail, small business, and corporate banking, as well as wealth management, services. The sale of the non-prime First Franklin business represents the culmination of moving away from broker-based businesses and was also timely, as the overall mortgage market is struggling along with the domestic housing and new construction markets.

During the quarterly and year-end earnings conference call, management detailed that $1.6 billion in capital will be freed up from selling First Franklin and will only affect 2007 results by $20 million, or $0.03 per share, as the remaining portfolio is allowed to run off. Fourth-quarter results saw a sizeable gain from the sale of First Franklin, which also enhanced key banking metrics such as return on assets and return on equity. But overall net interest margin held up well, and management expects to see a stable to slightly increasing figure over the next few quarters.

Management also mentioned that it is considering share repurchases with the newly freed capital and is also looking to expand into new markets. Currently, National City banks exist in the Midwest, so it would be nice to see more movement to Sunbelt states that are seeing population increases as baby-boomers and other individuals migrate to warmer climates. National City did recently add Florida exposure with a couple of acquisitions in the market but hasn't grown organically in many new markets as of late.

National City stacks up well against regional competitors such as KeyCorp (NYSE:KEY), Comerica (NYSE:CMA), Fifth Third Bancorp (NASDAQ:FITB), US Bancorp (NYSE:USB), and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM). It is also one of the largest banks in the country and posts stable results year after year. I'll stay on the sidelines until organic growth rates improve, but management appears to be actively looking for ways to enter new markets.

For related Foolishness:

National City, US Bancorp, and JPMorgan Chase are Income Investor recommendations.

Fool contributor Ryan Fuhrmann has no financial interest in any company mentioned. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy. Feel free to email him with feedback or to discuss any companies mentioned further.