12/11/96 -- 11:43 PM

NCR-AT&T; Stock,0477

NEW YORK (AP) - AT&T; Corp. has moved closer to completing the spinoff of its NCR computer division, with the kickoff of preliminary trading in NCR shares on the New York Stock Exchange.

The preliminary shares or ``when-issued'' stock attracted keen interest, gaining 17 percent on Wednesday's opening day.

The stock, similar to IOUs, let AT&T;'s 3.3 million stockholders decide whether to buy or sell their NCR shares before AT&T; actually delivers them on Dec. 31.

On that day, AT&T; will send stockholders one share of NCR for every 16 AT&T; shares they own.

But investors won't get an official-looking NCR stock certificate. The distribution will be the first of a newly spun-off company on the NYSE in which stock certificates won't automatically be sent to investors.

Instead, investors' holdings in NCR will be electronically recorded by NCR's transfer agent, the First National Bank of Boston, and stored in its computers. Account statements will be mailed to document the holdings.

AT&T; investors who want NCR stock certificates can ask for one from the bank any time after Dec. 31, to be delivered within 48 hours. And AT&T; stock certificates will still be valid.

The Securities and Exchange Commission last month approved electronic registration for NYSE-listed companies. The move is designed to save paperwork costs, reduce the risk of misplaced records and ease transfers.

The electronic registration also lets shareholders receive fractional shares of NCR stock. If they owned 100 shares of AT&T;, for example, their holdings would reflect 6.25 NCR shares. Under the stock-certificate method, AT&T; would have had to pay cash for any amounts short of a full share.

As part of the spinoff, a second form of AT&T; stock, devised to reflect the company's value after breaking off its computer business, also started trading Wednesday.

The ``when distributed'' shares representing the new AT&T; will trade for the rest of the month, until NCR is jettisoned, as ``T WD.'' Then, its ticker symbol switches to ``T'' - and the original AT&T; stock stops trading.

Likewise, the new NCR stock trades as ``NCR WI'' for the rest of the month before switching to NCR after the spinoff. This process gives investors the chance to trade the stock based on what the companies will soon be like.

In its first day of trading, the new NCR stock opened at $30.87 1/2 a share and closed at $36 1/8, up $5.25.

The NCR stock deal completes AT&T;'s split, announced last year, into three independent companies. AT&T; undertook a similar process in September when it finished the first stage of the spinoff by cutting loose its phone equipment division, Lucent Technologies.

Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.