Julius Baer is in discussions with Bank of America about purchasing Merrill Lynch’s non-U.S. wealth management division, as the Swiss private bank looks improve margins through scale. The unit is estimated to be worth $1.5- 2.0 billion and would increase Baer’s assets under management by 50% from the $186 billion reported in April.
If the deal took place, it would be the biggest since Baer teamed up with Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. to purchase ING’s (ING) private banking assets. Julius Baer and other Swiss banks are looking to increase their presence in Europe and offshore in Asia as the business of serving Western foreigners has come under pressure in a global clampdown on tax evasion.
Commenting on the possible acquisition, a spokesperson for Julius Baer said, “Given the early stage of these discussions, the outcome is entirely open” declining to say if the company would buy some or all of the business.
Reuters initially reported that Bank of America was looking at selling the unit in April, citing Credit Suisse (CS) and Royal Bank (RY) as potential suitors. The bank has been selling off non-core assets over the past several months as it looks to build capital. It has trailed its rivals in the recovery since the financial crisis, primarily due to losses and lawsuits regarding its 2008 purchase of Countrywide Financial, a subprime lender.
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