Bank of America to Buy Merrill - WSJ.com
What a weekend it was, history is being made here. I wanted to be a fly on the walls in the federal reserve and listen in at the negotiations. I can't wait for a book similar to "when Genius failed" that talked about a similar episode of American finance when LTCM failed.
I am a little relieved that BofA backed out of buying Lehman but now it is buying Merrill, a far better acquisition with much better assets. Here are some thoughts:
- Merrill has much better assets than Lehman and the fit is much better. Merrill has good assets, a large network of brokers, good investment bank, stake in BlackRock and other assets. It has been cleaning up its balance sheet since John Thain took over last year, so I think, I hope, that there is far less risk with Merill than Lehman, which did nothing since the credit crises broke. But then again investment banks balance sheets are very obscure and I do not know what is on Merrill books.
- Dividend cut: there is a higher probability now that BofA will cut its divided to boost its capital base.
- The independent investment banks model will fail. Only Goldman and Morgan Stanley are left standing and you got to think how are they going to finance their operations. Leverage in the hands of bankers are like ticking bomb, the story throughout history has been repeated so many times. JP Morgan can take Morgan Stanley and reunite the firm that once was broken up by US regulators.
- I view my investment in BofA as speculative now. The bank will either make incredible returns or will languish around dealing with losses and law suits.
- Executing a string of mergers is hard and I am concerned about that.
- BofA is building an empire of American finance that sprawls into all corners of the US banking system. Just look what happened to Citi is my initial thought. However there is a big difference between the two: BofA is buying at extremely low valuation and its competitors are disappearing at fast pace. Those two factors increases the likely hood of making a decent return. But manging the empire is what concerns me; it will be a daunting task.
- It is an all stock deal that means I as a shareholder will be diluted.
Again I can't wait for the book!!