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BofA May Fully Vend Stake in MUFG JV

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As part of its global strategy to move away from international wealth management business, Bank of America Corporation (BAC - Free Report) is in talks with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc. to sell its remaining stake in the joint venture (JV) – Mitsubishi UFJ Merrill Lynch PB Securities Co. The announcement related to the 49% stake sale, worth approximately ¥40 billion ($487 million), could come as early as next month.

The JV was formed in May 2006 by MUFJ and Merrill Lynch Co. Subsequently, during the height of the financial crisis in 2008, BofA acquired Merrill Lynch and hence, the JV was integrated into BofA’s operations. Currently, the JV employs about 440 people (about 80% coming from Merrill Lynch).

The JV provides wealth management services to clients with assets worth more than ¥100 million. Moreover, it remains a profitable venture, with profits of nearly ¥6.8 billion ($86.1 million) in the fiscal year ended March 31, 2012.

Yet, BofA chose to divest its stake in the JV, as the company has been trying to consolidate its global operations and doing away with its non-core businesses. Over the last two years, the company has completed the divestiture/closure of more than 20 non-core assets to strengthen its capital position in order to improve its efficiency.

In August 2012, BofA announced the divestiture of its international wealth management operations to Julius Baer Group for nearly CHF860 million ($882 million). The deal, which is still subject to regulatory approvals, is expected to close by the end of this year or early next year. Additionally, the divestiture did not include the aforesaid JV.

Moreover, for MUFG, the purchase of the remaining JV stake will further strengthen its dominance over the wealth management market as well as stabilize the revenue base. This would also enable MUFG to further improve its relationships with Morgan Stanley (MS - Free Report) , with whom it has three separate JVs.

Currently, BofA retains a Zacks #3 Rank, which translates into a short-term Hold rating. The company has made considerable progress in improving its capital base. We believe that the above mentioned divestiture, if finalized, will further aid the company in attaining its goal. This could serve as a slight positive for the company, thereby leading to modest upward estimate revision. This, in turn, could improve the company’s Zacks Rank.

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