BoA Loses Asia-Pacific M&A Chief

HONG KONG (Reuters) – The head of Bank of America’s (BAC.N) Asia-Pacific mergers and acquisitions practice is leaving the bank, BofA said on Thursday, the latest in a series of high-level departures.

Kalpana Desai was head of Asia-Pacific M&A, whose responsibilities included India and Australia but excluded Japan. She spent more than a decade in Hong Kong with Merrill Lynch before the New York brokerage was acquired by Bank of America earlier this year.

A BofA spokesman confirmed her departure.

The bank has seen several Merrill defections this year.

Alan Hartman, previously head of M&A for the Americas at Merrill, and two top Merrill healthcare bankers left BofA last month to join boutique firm Centerview Partners.

Desai will stay on at BofA for the next few weeks to help the transition, according to a source familiar with the matter. The source did not want to be named because the departure had not yet been officially announced.

Merrill was not an early comer to Asia, but about five years ago it quickly built up its banking business to handle the region’s booming economic growth.

Merrill went from 12th place in 2007 on the M&A Asia (ex Japan) league table to 5th spot last year, with 39 completed deals worth $36.2 billion, according to Thomson Reuters data.

During her career, Desai was involved in PCCW Ltd’s (0008.HK) $28.5 billion deal in 2000 to buy Cable & Wireless HKT, and IBM’s (IBM.N) sale of its PC-making business to China’s Lenovo Group Ltd (0992.HK) for $1.25 billion in 2004.

Desai joined Merrill’s investment banking division in Hong Kong in 1998 and was made head of Asia M&A four years later. She was promoted to head of Asia-Pacific (ex-Japan) M&A in 2008, with responsibility for the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia and India.

(Editing by Ian Geoghegan)