H.F. Ahmanson & Co. won the bidding for the 61 California branches Wells Fargo & Co. is divesting in conjunction with its merger with First Interstate Bancorp.

The deal is a coup for Irwindale, Calif.-based Ahmanson, parent of $50.5 billion-asset Home Savings of America, which is breaking out of the mold of a mortgage-oriented thrift company to become a more rounded retail bank.

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