Thursday, March 18, 2004

Shareholders OK mega-bank merger

By Paul Nowell
The Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The $47 billion merger of Bank of America Corp. and FleetBoston Financial Corp. gained approval from the shareholders of both companies Wednesday, a combination that will create the nation's third-largest bank with almost $1 trillion in assets.

Bank of America executives refused to comment on a report that the merger will result in up to 13,000 job cuts, although chief executive Ken Lewis did acknowledge eliminating jobs was a key part of any profitable acquisition.

More than 67 percent of Bank of America shareholders approved the merger. FleetBoston shareholders, who are receiving a 43 percent premium for their shares, gave their approval as well - with 98 percent of shareholders voting for the deal.

Lewis said the merger should be completed April 1.

"When this merger closes, Bank of America will have an unrivaled market position in America's growth and wealth markets," said Lewis, who will hold the same position at the combined bank, which will retain the Bank of America name. "There is no combination that could come together that could rival what we've put together.

Current FleetBoston CEO Chad Gifford will be chairman of the new bank.

With about 5,700 branches, the new bank's footprints will reach from California through the South and up to New England, with assets estimated at $966 billion - trailing only Citigroup and another planned megamerger between Chicago-based Bank One and J.P. Morgan Chase.

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