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Fresh merger frenzy

Ken Lewis

So, Deutsche Bank is buying Merrill Lynch. No, hang on, it's merging with UBS. Actually, Lloyds TSB wants to buy Deutsche. And if none of that works, Deutsche wants to buy PaineWebber from UBS.

What has sent bank merger rumours a-frenzy? It's not just centred on Deutsche Bank, either. Apparently, Bank of America has its eye on Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs, possibly Lehman Brothers as well, and there's even a chance it'll go after CSFB - assuming Credit Suisse puts it up for sale.

There haven't been this many rumours since 2000 when CSFB bought DLJ and Chase bought JP Morgan. But that was a very different time: few considered that a recession might be on the way or that equity issuance and M&A volumes would be down over 40%. And bank stock prices were high. That's why JP Morgan sold, having finally managed its first quarter during the entire bull-market run with a return on equity above 20%, and why DLJ's majority owner, Axa, sold out to the highest bidder.

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