NEW YORK - PNC Financial Services Group Inc. said today that it is being told by the federal government to sell 61 branches of National City Corp. in Western Pennsylvania as a condition for acquiring the bank.

National City's nearly 30,000 employees, from top managers to bank tellers, were being informed during the afternoon that the Department of Justice would announce the order later in the day.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice declined to comment.

The department's order wasn't a surprise to the bank, which mentioned the possibility of a required sale when the $5.6 billion deal was announced Oct. 24. The bank becomes the nation's fifth largest by deposits and the fourth biggest in terms of branches.

Pittsburgh-based PNC is the first U.S. bank to use money obtained under the government's $700 billion bailout program to make an acquisition. National City is based in Cleveland.

The bank said Wednesday that the integration between PNC and National City could take until late 2009 to be completed once the deal closes.

The credit crisis has forced a number of marriages of high-profile banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s purchase of Washington Mutual Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co.'s acquisition of Wachovia Corp., which has a large Philadelphia presence.

Meanwhile, PNC said its shareholders would meet Dec. 23 to vote on the merger.

PNC's share price was down 5.73 percent, or 3.02 perent, to $49.67 in midafternoon trading.