Webster Financial Corp. of Waterbury, Conn., is answering the competition from out-of-state rivals by bulking up in its home markets.

In the last two weeks the $9 billion-asset thrift company has struck deals to buy 10 branches in southern and central Connecticut from two of its biggest rivals - Chase Manhattan Corp. and FleetBoston Financial Corp. And within the next few days, Webster is expected to close its deal for $800 million-asset New England Community Bancorp of Windsor, Conn. The transactions would give Webster nearly $7 billion of deposits in Connecticut, vaulting it ahead of People's Mutual Holding Co. of Bridgeport into second place among the state's financial institutions. Only FleetBoston, with about $16 billion of deposits, would be larger.

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