WYOMISSING, Pa. - For the second time in less than a month, Sovereign Bancorp has announced plans to sell branches in northwest Pennsylvania.

The $31 billion-asset company said this week that it would sell six branches with $90 million of deposits in Susquehanna County to LA Bank of Lake Ariel, Pa. Just weeks earlier, Sovereign announced it would sell 14 branches, with $190 million of deposits, near the New York-Pennsylvania border to two community banks.

Jay S. Sidhu, Sovereign's president and chief executive officer, said the sales are part of the company's "ongoing strategy to select and refine the markets in which we invest our capital." It recently completed the first phase of its purchase of 285 branches in New England from FleetBoston Corp.

LA Bank has been beefing up in northwest Pennsylvania. A subsidiary of $2 billion-asset NBT Bancorp in Norwich, N.Y., LA Bank also recently announced it was buying two branches from Mellon Financial Corp. of Pittsburgh.

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