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The other shoe is about to drop in the year-old merger of TD Bank and Canada Trust, but closing nearly a quarter of its branches won't inconvenience its customers, bank officials insisted after the annual meeting Thursday.

TD bought Canada Trust last year for nearly $8-billion but promised to hold off on any branch closings - something it calls "branch mergers." But that process has now begun and when complete, about 275 branches will be closed across the country.

The bank received plenty of complaints over the first stage of combining TC and Canada Trust operations, standardizing customers' accounts. Some patrons complained of sharper higher service fees, something TD president Ed Clark described as "teething problems" in the complicated process of integrating the two companies.

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That won't be the case with branch closings, he promised.

"We've had good reactions from our customers," Mr. Clark, the former head of Canada Trust, said after TD's annual meeting Thursday. "Most of the branches that are being merged are quite close together, so we don't expect that we will inconvenience our customer base."

Customers in Atlantic Canada saw new TD Canada Trust signs go up on their branches last month. Next up will be B.C. and Alberta, followed by Manitoba and Quebec and, finally, Ontario. Once they get their new signs and work out their lease cancellations, branches slated for closing will send letters to their customers. There will be at least four months' notice given before a branch is closed

The closing of branches is expected to take until the fall of 2003, leaving TD Canada Trust with about 1,000 branches across the country. Last year, TD said the Canada Trust takeover would lead to the loss of about 4,900 jobs from the combined companies.

In trading on the Toronto stock market Thursday, TD rose $1.02 to $39.38 in trading of more than 1.3 million shares.

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