Mercury Finance Co. said this week that it plans to close more than a quarter of its 262 branches.

About 300 employees-one-sixth of the subprime auto lender's staff-could lose their jobs or be relocated, the company said Wednesday.

Mercury said it selected the 70 branches for closing because they are either unprofitable or located near another Mercury branch. Half of the branches in question are in Texas.

The downsizing will result in a $250 million decrease in the company's portfolio in the next 12 to 18 months, according to a statement from Mercury.

The branch closures are a "necessary step in our efforts to return Mercury to a level of profitability," said William Brandt, chief executive.

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