WSJ Says BofA Expects to Sell Columbia
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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

WSJ Says BofA Expects to Sell Columbia

The speculation about Columbia Management Group's future has reached the mainstream media. The Wall Street Journal's Dan Fitzpatrick and Heidi Moore report that, "according to people familiar with the situation," Bank of America expects to sell the Boston-based asset manager. The WSJ names no specific possible bidders.

A BofA spokesman could not be reached by MFWire for comment.

The article follows a report last month from Reuters, which mentions Columbia as one of numerous valuable assets BofA could sell to raise capital. One analyst told Reuters that Columbia would be worth about $7.7 billion while pricing BlackRock, which BofA now owns 49.5 percent of via Merrill Lynch, at about $12 billion.

Industry insiders have been whispering and wondering about Columbia's fate ever since BofA's purchase of Merrill came to light last year.

"This forces Bank of America to make a clear decision about what to do with Columbia: keep it, integrate in into Merrill, or sell it," an industry insider familiar with the situation told The MFWire in February.

So who might be interested in Columbia? One source familiar with the situation told The MFWire that John Hancock (owned by Canadian Manulife) had already offered to buy Columbia, but the deal never materialized. That same insider also named BlackRock as a possible bidder.

A spokeswoman for BlackRock declined to comment, citing company policy. A spokesperson for Hancock could not be reached for comment.

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