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Bank of America to buy Merrill Lynch

WASHINGTON, September 15 – Bank of America has agreed to buy investment bank Merrill Lynch for 50 billion dollars in a transaction that creates the world\’s largest financial services company, the bank announced early Monday.

"Acquiring one of the premier wealth management, capital markets and advisory companies is a great opportunity for our shareholders," Bank of America Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ken Lewis said in a statement of the 35-million-euro deal.

"Together, our companies are more valuable because of the synergies in our businesses."

John Thain, chairman and CEO of Merrill Lynch, said he looked forward to working with Bank of America to create "what will be the leading financial institution in the world."

Under the terms of the transaction, Bank of America would exchange 0.8595 of its shares for each Merrill Lynch common share.

The transaction has been approved by directors of both companies and is subject to shareholder votes and standard regulatory approvals. It is expected to be finalized in the first quarter of 2009.

Three directors of Merrill Lynch will join the Bank of America board.

Following the acquisition of Merrill Lynch, Bank of America would have the largest brokerage in the world with more than 20,000 advisers and 2.5 trillion dollars in client assets.

It will also give the bank approximately 50 percent ownership in finacial firm BlackRock, which has 1.4 trillion dollars in assets under its management.

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