Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the world's largest wealth manager, is seeking a buyer for its wealth management operations outside the U.S., an asset that could be worth as much as $3 billion, Reuters said Tuesday.
The bank's non-U.S. wealth management operations handled a reported $90 billion in assets, according to several sources familiar with the matter. Bank of America Merrill Lynch is a unit of Bank of America Corp. (BAC).
"There is a lot of soul-searching going on by a lot of U.S. players as to what to do with their non-U.S. private banking operations," said an investment banker, according to Reuters.
Bank of America's non-U.S. private banking operations focus on the mass affluent, whose wealth is measured in hundreds of thousands of dollars, rather than the super-rich, whose wealth is measured in the tens of millions.
The New York-based bank asked for first-round bids this week for the operation, which has never been able to grow to the size of the bank's domestic wealth management operations.
"The people I spoke to are not expecting this to be a particularly rapid process, just given the broad scope of the operations' geography and the relative skinny information that was made available," according to one source.
That source said the asking price for the unit, which Bank of America aims to sell as a single unit, would be about $3 billion or a little more than 3 percent of assets under management.
"Three percent of assets under management (is high) in Europe, but it is low in emerging markets. In Asia it is perfectly possible to raise 4 to 5 percent, and the same thing goes for Latin America," the person said.
The person said possible bidders could include UBS, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) and Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC).
Shares of Bank of America rose 18 cents, or 2.05 percent, to $8.97 in afternoon trading.