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Merrill Lynch Long-Term Asset for Bank of America


Merger good news for brokers, shareholders.


This morning, while every eye on Wall Street was focused on AIG (AIG), the following article hit Marketwatch:

"Lehman Europe is party to a 3.2-million-share lending agreement with A&P, entered into in connection with the company's convertible-note financings in December 2007," A&P said. The company needs more information regarding the bankruptcy proceedings before it can "properly assess whether Lehman Europe will be able to fulfill its obligation to return the borrowed shares," A&P said. Till then, A&P said, it will continue to consider the shares outstanding only for corporate-law purposes and not when it reports per-share results."

I share this as a reminder to all that I anticipate many corporates -- and not just financial services firms -- will report unanticipated consequences of Lehman Brothers' (LEH) bankruptcy in their third-quarter earnings releases over the next month.

Second, unlike many pundits out there, I give Ken Lewis huge credit for thinking "strategically" at a time when everyone else seems to be thinking only "tactically."The Bank of America (BAC) /Merrill Lynch (MER) combination is immensely powerful.

Is there another Lehman Brothers out there?
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To give you just an easy example, imagine the value to the combined company of converting just 25%, let alone 50%, of the money market sweep accounts into deposits. A huge win - and one I think the regulators will not only approve, but encourage.

Further, while many analysts are complaining about the price, the premium sent a huge message to Merrill's most important asset -- its brokers -- that they were valued. (And I would note a very different reaction being reported at Lehman Brothers following the Barclays (BCS) news.)

At the end of the day, given that the BofA/ Merrill transaction was a pure stock deal, valuing Merrill Lynch at around one-third of Bank of America seems like a great deal for the Bank's shareholders - not today, but 2 years from now.

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