WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Wachovia Corp. was a big buyer of First Union Corp. shares this spring and early summer as the two North Carolina companies fought a challenge from SunTrust Banks Inc. to their planned merger.

Wachovia, of Winston-Salem, said in its second-quarter financial statement, filed Monday, that it bought $552 million in First Union stock in the months following the April 16 merger announcement with First Union. Analyst Ruchi Madan of Citigroup’s Salomon Smith Barney unit estimates the purchases totaled about 17 million shares.

First Union also was active, buying back about 2.1 million of its own shares and entering new forward purchase contracts for another 5.9 million shares, according to its own second-quarter financial statement filed Monday.

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