New England community banks have picked up all the branches divested by Fleet Financial Group and Shawmut National Corp. in anticipation of their megamerger.

Contrary to speculation that another regional bank would sweep up the whole bunch, seven community banks and a Rhode Island investor group won the 64 branches in four northeastern states, with about $2.9 billion in deposits and $1.7 billion in loans. The two regionals agreed to shed the branches to satisfy Justice Department concerns that the combined entity would be anticompetitive in small-business and middle-market lending.

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