Executives of Washington Mutual Inc.-which already dominates the West Coast-are saying their branches could soon start popping up across the Southeast and Midwest like so many Starbucks coffee shops.

With the help of its coffee-marketing neighbor, the Seattle-based thrift company has developed an expansion strategy that would entail setting up operations in markets where acquisition prices are too high, chairman Kerry Killinger said last week. "This will be a growing percentage of our business," he vowed.

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