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70 Bank of America branches have been closed or sold in 2012

Bank of America Corp. has closed or sold at least 70 branches so far this year, according to data compiled by SNL Financial, part of the bank’s plans to shed 750 offices over the next few years.

The Charlotte bank closed a net 51 branches in the first quarter, CEO Brian Moynihan said during a conference call last month. Also in April, the bank announced it was selling 15 branches in Maine, and later sold about a half dozen in Iowa.

These were the first branch sales in more than a decade, SNL Financial said.

Bank of America declined to comment on the report.

But in the conference call last month, Chief Financial Officer Bruce Thompson told analysts that as the bank shrinks its retail presence, it would rather sell branches than shut them down.

“As we go through that process and look at the overall optimization, there’s always a balancing,” Thompson said.

Moynihan said in the call that the branch closings come both as the company seeks to cut costs in its retail business but also as customers have turned to ATMs or the Internet to complete more of their transactions.

He said the bank is focused on maintaining top positions in the country’s top 30 markets, plus others with growth potential.

To that end, SNL suggests in its report Tuesday that the bank has an opportunity to close or unload branches in smaller or less affluent markets. According to SNL data, Bank of America has:

$18 billion in deposits in cities with fewer than 150,000 people.

28 branches and $706.5 million in deposits in metro areas with fewer than 30,000 people.

377 branches and $17.8 billion in deposits in areas where the median income is less than $40,000.

The bank still has roughly 5,800 branches, one of the country’s largest networks, according to FDIC data.