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Jobs To Be Fleet-ing After Merger

Bank of America Corp. plans to cut as many as 13,000 jobs as it completes its $47 billion acquisition of FleetBoston Financial Corp., according to a newspaper report.

The cuts will coincide with the expected completion of the purchase next month, The Wall Street Journal reported in Wednesday editions, citing unidentified people familiar with the plans.

A Bank of America spokeswoman said Wednesday she couldn't confirm the number of jobs that will be lost.

"There will be job cuts as a result of the merger, however we have not provided that information," spokeswoman Eloise Hale said.

The cuts would come through layoffs and attrition from the operations of both banks and amount to about 7 percent of their combined work force of 181,000, the report said.

Bank of America Corp. and FleetBoston shareholders approved the takeover on Wednesday, after the Federal Reserve Board had given its approval March 8.

Bank of America's annual shareholder meeting in Charlotte lasted less than an hour, with the bank announcing that some 67.3 percent of more than 1.2 billion votes cast were in favor of the merger.

The Fleet shareholders met in Boston, with nearly 70 percent of the company's shareholders casting votes, 98 percent of them in favor of the merger.

Last week, an analyst predicted that Bank of America might have to cut as many as 11,000 jobs to attain the level of cost reductions pledged by chief executive Ken Lewis when the bank announced the Fleet purchase.

Lewis said he expects to achieve about $1.6 billion in cost savings by the end of 2005.

"It's reasonable to assume 9,000 to 11,000 (job cuts) to reach a cost savings of about $1.6 billion, Gerard Cassidy, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, told The Associated Press last week.

"Attrition obviously plays a role in this, and you also have to assume that Fleet is not actively hiring new people right now," Cassidy said. "There will be a lot of vacant jobs, so the actual number of pink slips handed out will not be that many."

The two banks don't have a large number of overlapping branches that can be closed, which is a major source of savings in many bank mergers. Instead, about $650 million in savings will come from trimming overlapping operations and processes.

The two banks have agreed to pay $675 million to settle civil fraud charges related to improper mutual-fund trading, in a deal reached with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.