Shares of Sovereign Bancorp Inc. have fallen 6.9% in the last few days as rumors intensify that the $25 billion-asset thrift will buy as many as 300 branches that are expected to be divested in the pending merger of Fleet Financial Group Inc. and BankBoston Corp.

Some analysts fear that Sovereign's earnings per share would be hurt if the unconfirmed reports prove true. Sovereign declined to comment.

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