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Investment banking: What next for Merrill?

Bank of America is due to close its acquisition of Merrill Lynch in March 2009 but it is still not clear what it plans to do with Merrill’s Latin American business.

In mid October, John Thain, chief executive of Merrill Lynch, who will run investment banking, asset and wealth management at BofA, gave few clues as to what the strategy would be except to say that the bank would focus on the big emerging economies: "We have consistently said we see opportunities in Brazil, Russia, India and China."

What that means for the region beyond Brazil is not yet apparent. Merrill is present in seven Latin American countries. What’s more, even in Brazil there are legal hurdles that the new business may have to overcome.

One issue that needs to be resolved is whether the franchise will continue with Merrill’s previously aggressive strategy towards the region or BofA’s much more conservative approach.

"I don’t think Bank of America will keep Merrill’s Latin business. It contradicts the bank’s strategy, and it’s not like Merrill’s operation is that significant in Latin America anyway"

"I don’t think Bank of America will keep Merrill’s Latin business.