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Merrill Lynch Says Bye Bye Bloomberg

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News leader could change hands again soon.

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Merrill Lynch (MER) appears ready to sell its 20% stake in Bloomberg for about $4.5 billion.

The planned sale to Michael Bloomberg, founder of the news and financial information company and the mayor of New York, is apparently intended to offset part of a $6 billion credit-related loss the investment bank is expected to announce Thursday. However, Merrill Lynch will apparently retain its 49% stake in money management firm BlackRock (BLK).

Merrill's planned sale of its Bloomberg stake would value the entire information company at about $20 billion. It would plump the Bloomberg's bank account to an estimated $15 billion.

Bloomberg has made noises about running for New York governor and may sell all or most of the company he founded. He's also talked about expanding his philanthropic efforts.

Bloomberg News is the industry standard on Wall Street. Its news stories follow a formula, but are crammed with the information investors and analysts need - even if they are about as zippy as a soup label.

But it's the company's terminals, the beloved Bloomberg box, that makes the service indispensable. Stock quotes and all the data you need to make a detailed analysis of a stock are at your fingertips and are constantly updated. Individual investors can get a small taste of the service at Bloomberg.com. But don't plan on having a Bloomberg terminal at home, unless you can afford to pay about $1,800 a month.

On Wall Street, there's Bloomberg and everybody else, including Dow Jones, recently purchased by News Corporation (NWS) and Thomson Reuters (TRI).

The Dow Jones Newswires, the electronic end of the company, is beefing up its Washington coverage and other bureaus around the nation, apparently part of Rupert Murdoch's stated goal of going head-to-head with the New York Times (NYT) and the Washington Post (WPO) in national coverage. News Corporation also acquired the Wall Street Journal and Barron's.

Earlier this year, Thomson Financial merged with Reuters to create Thomson Reuters. The company appears well positioned to fill the void if Bloomberg is sold and the new owners stumble, because they offer solid data.

Thomson Financial, a division of Thomson, recently acquired AFX News from Agence France-Presse. AFX, based in London, provides real-time financial news in Europe.

But for now, keep an eye on Bloomberg News for real-time market coverage.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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