Sovereign of Pa. Is Selling 14 Branches

WYOMISSING, Pa., - Sovereign Bancorp said Wednesday it would sell 14 branches along the north central border of Pennsylvania to two community banks.Sovereign, which last month completed the first of three phases of acquiring $12 billion in deposits and 285 branches from FleetBoston Financial Corp., said the branches, with $190 million of deposits and $88 million of loans, were "geographically isolated" from Sovereign's core franchise. the sales are part of Sovereign's strategy to "select and refine the markets" in which it does business, said Jay S. Sidhu, the company's president and chief executive.

The $31 billion-asset parent company of Sovereign Bank said it would sell nine branches in Potter and Tioga counties to Northwest Savings Bank, of Warren, and five branches in Bradford County to First Citizens National Bank. of Mansfield. A sale price was not disclosed.

-Veronica Agosta

Md.'s Provident: Proxy Vote to Sell Fell Short

BALTIMORE - Provident Bankshares said a preliminary proxy vote count available at Wednesday's stockholders meeting indicated the defeat "by a significant margin" of a sell-the-company push.Mid-Atlantic Investors, which owns 5% of Provident's stock, had also tried to force a sale of the $5.2 billion-asset company last year. The group submitted its latest proposal after Provident shares fell to $13.88 in January. Shares were at $15.5625 Wednesday, 87.5 cents. Provident said the proposal apparently got less than 25% of the vote.

Royal of Scotland Sees More Fat at Natwest

LONDON - Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC said it has identified an additional $63 million cost savings and $198 million of additional revenue gains from its integration of National Westminster BankAt a conference call with journalists, chief executive officer Fred Goodwin said the savings were in addition to the $1.89 billion it had forecast, and the revenue was in addition to a previously announced figure of $617 million. Mr. Goodwin also said that about half of the 18,000 job cuts announced at the time of the offer would take place in the first year.

Mr. Goodwin said the group has identified a number of businesses that could be sold, including Natwest Equity Partners and Ulster Bank Investment Managers.

- Dow Jones

Royal of Canada Web Unit Targets U.S. Wealthy

MONTREAL - Royal Bank of Canada launched Wednesday an online wealth management company for high-net-worth investors in the United States. Grant Rasmussen, the managing director of the Boston-based company, VIP Capital, said it will cater to investors will more than $500,000 in assets.Mr. Rasmussen said the online service gives investors access to an individual relationship manager 24 hours a day. Anderson Consulting will provide the technology for VIP Capital. The Web site allows investors to make banking, brokerage, and investment products transactions and monitor portfolios, personal reports, and their transaction history.

-Matt Ackermann

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