WASHINGTON - The Justice Department on Wednesday approved the $5.5 billion merger of Zions Bancorp. and First Security Corp., both of Salt Lake City.

The government is requiring the post-merger company, which will use the First Security name, to divest $2 billion of deposits in 63 branches in Utah and Idaho.When the deal was announced June 6, the companies said they expected $1.5 billion of deposits would have to be sold to win government approval.

"The deal as originally proposed would have been anti-competitive , resulting in customers having fewer choices for banking services," the Justice Department announcement stated.

With $42 billion of assets, the merged company would be the nation's 20th largest.

First Security is to operate branches in 10 states. In addition to Utah, the two companies overlap in California, Idaho, Nevada, and New Mexico.

The deal is expected to close this year, but still needs Federal Reserve Board approval.

- Katharine Fraser

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