Sovereign Bancorp has disclosed that it needs to raise $500 million in capital to back its planned purchase of 278 New England branches from Fleet Financial Group and BankBoston Corp.

If Sovereign cannot raise the funds by Dec. 15, the deal could be scrapped and it would owe a $50 million breakup fee to the sellers, the $25 billion-asset thrift company said in a Sept. 23 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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