Merrill Loses China I-Banking Chief

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Merrill Lynch China Investment Banking Chairman Margaret Ren, a star China banker and relative of China’s former premier, has left the bank, sources close to the matter said on Friday.

The sources did not say why she left, or what avenues she planned to pursue.

Her departure is another loss of a top banker at Merrill, which was bought earlier this year by Bank of America (BAC.N).

BofA’s purchase of Merrill rescued the New York brokerage from near collapse. But the financial struggles of BofA since the deal have led to a large wave of defections by top Merrill talent across the globe.

BofA, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, declined to comment.

Ren, daughter-in-law of former Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Merrill hired Ren in February 2007, at a time when Chinese investment banking revenues were soaring past the $1 billion mark for the industry.

Prior to Merrill, Ren was a star banker at Citigroup (C.N), although she was suspended by the bank in June 2004 over an inquiry into the December 2003 $3.5 billion IPO of China Life Insurance Co, in which she played a key role. Ren left Citigroup soon after the suspension and was cleared of any wrongdoing in issue by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 2006.

Media reports at the time of her Merrill hiring said Ren holds a master’s degree from Princeton University in the United States, and is the daughter of former Guangdong Party Secretary Ren Zhongyi.

By George Chen and Michael Flaherty
(Editing by Chris Lewis)