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BofA chief to cut branches by 10%

BANK of America Corp's CEO Ken Lewis said he is planning to shrink the lender's 6,100-branch network by about 10 percent, The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.

The newspaper said Lewis told investors of the plans at a meeting last week in Charlotte, where the bank is based. The Journal cited unidentified people familiar with the discussion.

The move would be a pullback from the bank's two-decade expansion, most recently under Lewis' command, which expanded the bank from coast to coast.

A BofA spokesman could not be reached for immediate comment.

The newspaper said Liam McGee, president of BofA's consumer and small-business bank, cited changing customer preferences for the move, saying more people are using online and mobile banking.

McGee, however, reportedly said it would be premature to specify how many locations could be closed.

The report comes as BofA continues to be under the careful watch of the United States government, while it works to integrate two recent deals.

The bank acquired troubled mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Corp last summer and investment bank Merrill Lynch & Co in January.

Those two acquisitions have proven challenging for Lewis.

The bank and Lewis have been under intense scrutiny because BofA is one of the biggest recipients of government bailout money °?- US$45 billion - and because the losses at Merrill Lynch turned out to be much higher.


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