Spain's Banco Santander played a pivotal role in the $5.5 billion merger between First Fidelity Bancorp. and First Union Corp., Wall Street sources said.

Investment banking sources said that Santander, Fidelity's largest shareholder, and its chairman, Emilio Botin, enthusiastically pushed the merger. And why not? On paper the deal figures to raise the value of Banco Santander's stake in First Fidelity to $879 million, more than double its initial investment.

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