BoA Promotes Pair of M&A Bankers

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) has promoted two senior mergers and acquisitions bankers as it reorganizes following its acquisition of Merrill Lynch & Co and looks to benefit from a possible pickup in deal flow.

The bank has named Steven Baronoff, a former Merrill Lynch executive, chairman of global mergers and acquisitions, and Stefan Selig, a senior Bank of America executive, as executive vice chairman of global corporate and investment banking.

The Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank has been seeking to stem a wave of departures since it bought Merrill on Jan. 1. Among the departures this year has been John Thain, Merrill’s chief executive, and Greg Fleming, who oversaw its investment banking business.

Monday’s promotions will help support the combination of the two businesses, Baronoff and Selig told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“It’s a sign of continuity and stability, to take two of the most senior bankers, one from legacy Merrill Lynch and one from Bank of America, and put them in these roles,” Baronoff said. “You’re going to see more hires to come.”

M&A UPTURN?

While global deals plunged after the credit crisis — M&A had its slowest second quarter in six years, according to Thomson Reuters data — bankers are hoping it has hit a trough.

Rallying markets and a brightening economic outlook of the last few months have allowed companies to forecast earnings with more certainty, sparking hopes that activity would not fall any further, or could even start to rise again.

“The financing markets have firmed up, and deal confidence is improving,” Baronoff said. He said real improvement could come in the second half of 2009 or the first half of 2010.

Another sign for optimism is the return of private equity activity, Selig said.

“For the first time, we’re actually seeing some activity among financial sponsors, which have been dormant for the better part of the year,” Selig said.

Baronoff is currently advising PepsiCo (PEP.N) on its offer for its bottlers Pepsi Bottling Group (PBG.N) and PepsiAmericas (PAS.N).

Selig, Bank of America’s former vice chairman of global mergers and acquisitions, is currently advising Broadcom Corp (BRCM.O) on its bid for Emulex Corp (ELX.N), as well as Watson Wyatt Worldwide Inc (WW.N) on its merger with Towers Perrin and Bank of America’s own joint venture with First Data Corp.

Both Baronoff and Selig will report to Brian Moynihan, president of global banking and wealth management.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch ranked second behind JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) in global investment banking fees in the first half of the year, while for fees from mergers and acquisitions, the bank finished sixth after the first half of the year, according to Thomson Reuters data.

By Elinor Comlay and Megan Davies
(Editing by Tim Dobbyn, Bernard Orr)