Merrill Lynch: Komansky set to play hardball

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For over a decade after 1987, when it first topped the US bond league tables, Merrill Lynch enjoyed unfettered growth, profitability and renown as the world's premier securities firm. Its mix of retail distribution, dependable income and worldwide expansion became the model for big investment banks to aspire to. Then, last year, things started to go wrong. Merrill's bond traders made huge losses, acquisitions in Japan and Canada produced sorry results, US asset managers put in a weak performance and clients defected from Mercury Asset Management. Most worrying, internet stock traders began to encroach on Merrill's retail business. For the past few months, the firm has licked its wounds, fended off merger rumours, and laid new plans. Now it's coming out fighting. Antony Currie reports.