The banking industry gained a powerful new competitor Wednesday when Dean Witter, Discover & Co. and Morgan Stanley Group announced their intent to merge.

The resulting entity is expected to be a giant in everything from credit cards to asset management to equity underwriting-the very businesses that most banks are relying on to boost their future revenues. It would boast relationships with some 3.2 million consumers in 21 countries and sport 361 branches in the United States alone.

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