State Bank of India said it will initiate steps for the merger of the five associate banks, State Bank of Travancore, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur and State Bank of Patiala. The news led to intense activity in the share markets with the prices of these stocks hitting a new high. The combination of the associate banks will enhance the asset base of the State Bank of India to Rs 21.9 lakh crore, and add 5,658 branches to its 15,143 branches. Its market share will rise to 24%, from 19%, making it a formidable force. Although consolidation of the group was first mooted about a decade ago, it did not move forward mainly because of the opposition of the staff unions.