The Justice Department on Friday said it will not challenge the BankAmerica Corp.-NationsBank Corp. merger on antitrust grounds after the companies agreed to divest 17 branches in New Mexico.

"This settlement preserves the competitive choice for small businesses and other consumers in New Mexico who would have been harmed by this merger," said Joel I. Klein, assistant attorney general for antitrust. "Those consumers will continue to enjoy the most competitive loan rates and the best banking services."

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