People's Bank in Bridgeport, Conn., can be removed from the list of potential bidders for branches that Fleet Financial Group and BankBoston Corp. plan to divest in New England.

The $10.4 billion-asset thrift told investors last week it did not make an offer for any of the 292 branches or $12.5 billion of deposits Fleet and BankBoston are expected to divest to win regulatory approval of their $16 billion merger.

Instead, People's said, it intends to try to take business from the post-merger giant.

"We have made the decision that, strategically, spending money on marketing to that sector is more important than buying the deposits," said David E.A. Carson, chairman and chief executive officer, during a conference call to announce second-quarter earnings.

For the quarter, People's reported net income of $29 million, a 4% increase from the year earlier. Its commercial loan portfolio grew 15%, it said, and commercial real estate lending, 10%.

Another reputed bidder, Peoples Heritage Financial Group in Portland, Maine, has also removed itself from the field.

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