Switzerland’s Julius Baer, one of the banks rumored to be interested in buying Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s non-US wealth business, said today it was in talks with the US-listed giant about a possible deal.
Other banks that have been mentioned in media reports as possible suitors, such as Credit Suisse, UBS, Royal Bank of Canada and Wells Fargo, have not commented about a deal.
“Julius Baer Group, the leading Swiss private banking group, is in discussions with Bank of America Corp about Merrill Lynch’s international wealth management business (outside the United States),” Julius Baer said in a statement. “Given the early stage of these discussions, the outcome is entirely open.”
BoA Merrill Lynch has not yet commented about a possible sale. It did not respond to this publication’s request for comment at the time of going to press.
The non-US wealth unit of BoA Merrill Lynch has around $90 billion of assets around the world. Purchase price estimates vary: a media report gave one figure as high as $3 billion, while others have been between $1.5 billion and $2 billion. One European bank has told this publication that a purchase price in the region of $2 billion or above is far too high for the size of assets in question, and that it might be likely that banks will want to acquire teams of managers from BoA Merrill Lynch instead.
Analysts have told this publication that such a transaction would make sense as BoA, which acquired Merrill Lynch in 2009, has failed to achieve critical mass in its non-US wealth business in recent years.
If a deal does take place, it will represent one of the bigger merger and acquisition deals in wealth management during recent years. Despite talk of how the sector, faced with tighter margins, is ripe for a wave of consolidation, actual deals have tended to lag behind the talk. There have been some piecemeal changes, such as the move by Brazil’s Safra Group to buy the controlling stake in Switzerland’s Sarasin, the private bank, from its previous owner, Netherlands-based Rabobank.