PNC Financial Services Group has sealed the deal to sell the bulk of the 61 former National City branches it is divesting in Western Pennsylvania, according to the new owner's communications firm.
A spokesman for Pittsburgh-based Krome Communications would not disclose the identity of the buyer last night, but the leading candidate was believed to be Lockport, N.Y.-based First Niagara Financial.
The buyer was expected to be in Pittsburgh to announce the transaction this morning, the spokesman said.
Officials at First Niagara could not be reached last night. PNC has said it would be up to the buyer to announce any deals.
PNC, which acquired ailing Cleveland-based National City on Dec. 31, was ordered by the U.S. Justice Department to sell the 61 offices, which have deposits of $4.1 billion, to settle antitrust concerns.
Fifty of those branches, located in the five-county Pittsburgh region, must be sold to a single buyer.
The remaining 11 offices are farther north in Erie, Crawford and Warren counties.
Besides First Niagara, other financial institutions that have looked into buying the National City branches include JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Key Corp., Fifth Third, Huntington Bancshares and Hermitage-based FNB Corp., according to a source close to the situation.
Last month, FNB's acting chief executive officer, Stephen Gurgovits, said his bank had pulled out of the running.
Patricia Sabatini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3066.