Merrill Said to Discuss Merger With Bank of AmericaPublish date: 15-09-2008
Merrill Lynch & Co. is in merger talks with Bank of America Corp. after shares of the third- biggest U.S. securities firm fell by more than 35 percent last week and smaller rival Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. neared bankruptcy, people with knowledge of the negotiations said
Merrill Lynch & Co. is in merger talks with Bank of America Corp. after shares of the third- biggest U.S. securities firm fell by more than 35 percent last week and smaller rival Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. neared bankruptcy, people with knowledge of the negotiations said.
Discussions about a potential transaction were proceeding after Bank of America, the biggest U.S. consumer bank, and Barclays Plc, the U.K.'s third-largest lender, abandoned talks to buy Lehman earlier today.
Merrill's board was considering a $29 a share offer, the Wall Street Journal reported, 70 percent more than Merrill's closing price of $17.05 in New York trading on Sept. 12. Such a deal would value the firm at more than $40 billion. The New York Times reported that Bank of America was in advanced talks to buy Merrill, which employs the largest U.S. brokerage force, for between $25 and $30 a share, citing people briefed on the negotiations.
Bank of America, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, has maintained its AA credit rating as other U.S. financial institutions, including Merrill, faced downgrades. Merrill's stock plunged last week after Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Meredith Whitney predicted a $6.87 billion third-quarter loss and investors speculated that New York-based Merrill may sink along with Lehman.
''A merger between Merrill and Bank of America is a good idea,'' said Richard Bove, an analyst at Ladenberg Thalmann & Co. in Lutz, Florida. ''If Lehman fails, the next bank to be attacked would be Merrill. They are attempting to forestall that attack by linking with Bank of America.''
Thain, Paulson, Geithner
Merrill spokeswoman Jessica Oppenheim declined to comment. ``We don't comment on speculation,'' said Bank of America spokesman Bob Stickler.
Merrill Chief Executive Officer John Thain, 53, was among the Wall Street chiefs who gathered the past three days for a series of meetings at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to discuss a resolution for Lehman. U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and New York Fed President Timothy Geithner summoned the executives to the weekend meetings.
Bank of America representatives skipped the initial sessions because the bank was bidding for Lehman.
Bank of America has rallied 82 percent since reaching a low on July 15. On Sept. 12, the shares climbed 68 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $33.74 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.
Merrill shares fell 12 percent on Sept. 12 to $17.05, the first close below $20 a share in a decade.
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