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CHARLOTTE, NC-Wachovia Corp. shareholders approved the locally based bank’s merger with Wells Fargo & Co. by a 76% margin during a special meeting Tuesday morning. The transaction should be finished within the coming week, concluding a bit of banking industry drama that essentially lasted the entire fourth quarter.

“We received overwhelming support from Wachovia’s shareholders today, with approximately 96% of the votes cast by Wachovia shareholders approving the transaction,” CEO Bob Steel stated in a release. He added that “the Wells Fargo/Wachovia combination will provide superior growth and long-term value to our shareholders, customers, employees and our communities.”

Wachovia and San Francisco-based Wells Fargo agreed to the merger Oct. 3, just days after federal authorities arranged a quick sale of Wachovia to Citigroup for what amounted to roughly $1 per share, or $2.1 billion. Wells Fargo offered $15.1 billion, or $7 per share, with no requirement of government assistance. The final purchase price figures to be just under $12 billion, based on current stock values.

Financially troubled Wachovia was a plum for both banks, with 3,300 branches in 21 states from Connecticut to Florida. New York-based Citi has far fewer operations in the Southeast, while Wells Fargo has even less redundancy with Wachovia along the East Coast.

The combined organization, for which integration is expected to take at least two years, will have $1.4 trillion in assets, with Wachovia accounting for a slightly larger amount than Wells Fargo, and nearly 10,000 offices in 39 states coast to coast plus the District of Columbia.

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