Wachovia Corp. agreed Friday to divest nine branches in Virginia to resolve Justice Department antitrust objections to its merger with Central Fidelity Banks Inc.

The nine branches have $217.9 million of deposits. Three are Central Fidelity branches; the rest belong to Jefferson National Bancshares, a Charlottesville, Va.-based bank that Wachovia agreed to buy in June before it bid for Central Fidelity.

"The divestitures will ensure that individuals and small businesses alike receive substantial benefits of competition in banking services," said Joel I. Klein, assistant attorney general for antitrust.

Wachovia expects to close the Jefferson deal Oct. 31 and the Central Fidelity merger in December. The Federal Reserve Board must still approve the Central Fidelity deal. -Jaret Seiberg

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