The Justice Department approved CoreStates Financial Corp.'s acquisition of Meridian Bancorp Monday after the bank agreed to divest 11 branches with $444 million of deposits.

The deal now goes to the Federal Reserve Board for final approval.

CoreStates will divest 10 Meridian branches in Reading, Pa., with $413 million of deposits. It also will sell a Meridian branch in Lebanon, Pa., with $31 million of deposits.

Assistant Attorney General Anne K. Bingaman said the merger, before divestitures, raised serious antitrust concerns for small-business lending in eastern Pennsylvania.

CoreStates' $3.8 billion acquisition of Meridian will create a $44 billion-asset bank with more than 700 branches in the Middle Atlantic states.

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