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Bank of America to keep, grow Merrill Asia property fund, say sources

HONG KONG/SINGAPORE: Bank of America (BofA) has decided to hold on to, and raise new money for Merrill Lynch's Asia property fund business, which the US bank had planned to sell during the financial crisis, partly because of a rapid recovery in Asia's property market, sources said.

BofA was in talks with several private equity firms including Blackstone Group and Apollo Investment Management to sell management rights to its US$2.65 billion (RM9.1 billion) Asia Real Estate Opportunity Fund, which BofA regarded as a non-core business, Reuters reported in July.

Despite negotiations lasting more than six months, no deal was reached because of disagreements over financial terms and the complicated structure of Merrill property funds, sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Jan 27.

Amid a fast recovery in Asia's property markets -- especially in China -- BofA was hiring people in Beijing and raising money for a new Asia-focused property fund, the sources said.

The sources, who were involved in the bidding process and have business ties with BofA, declined to be identified as they were not authorised to speak to the media.

A BofA spokesman in Hong Kong declined to comment.

BofA took over Merrill, a historic Wall Street brand, at end-2008 during the financial crisis. -- Reuters

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