Bank of America Buys Merrill Lynch and a company unrivalled in its breadth of financial services and global reach.

“Acquiring one of the premier wealth management, capital markets, and advisory companies is a great opportunity for our shareholders,” Bank of America Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ken Lewis said. “Together, our companies are more valuable because of the synergies in our businesses.”

Merrill is the second bargain picked up this year by Bank of America Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Lewis tied to the collapse of the mortgage markets. The bank bought Countrywide Financial Corp. for $2.5 billion in stock last July to become the nation’s biggest home lender.

By Adding Merrill Lynch both enhances current strengths at Bank of America and creates new ones, particularly outside of the United States. Merrill Lynch adds strengths in global debt underwriting, global equities and global merger and acquisition advice.

The Merrill takeover would be the largest in the financial- services industry this year.

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