Merrill Loses Head of Asia I-Banking

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Merrill Lynch’s (MER.N) head of investment banking for all of Asia, Damian Chunilal, has left the firm, a memo obtained by Reuters said on Tuesday, the second top level shake-up in the last two months at Merrill’s Asia group.

Merrill spokesman Rob Stewart confirmed that Chunilal had left, although he did not give a reason nor indicate who would replace him.

The memo indicates that the departure was abrupt, as Chunilal says he has already left Merrill.

“I am leaving the firm today. I wanted to thank you all for your support and hard work over the last five years in Pac Rim,” he says in the email, signed Damian.

Sheldon Trainor, Merrill’s head of Asia investment banking, excluding Japan and Australia, stepped down from day-to-day responsibilities of the division in September to assume a new role, a source told Reuters at the time.

Trainor reported to Chunilal before and after his move.

The moves come as Asia’s once red hot economy slows down, and as Merrill prepares to be taken over.

Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) and Merrill shareholders will vote on December 5 on the proposed merger of the two companies.

Bank of America agreed on Sept 15 to acquire Merrill, creating the largest U.S. bank by assets, in a transaction the companies valued at $50 billion. The value has since fallen because Bank of America shares have declined 30 percent.

BofA made a move on Merrill as Merrill’s shares plunged amid the panic that seized Wall Street in September.

Chunilal became head of Asia investment banking in December 2006. Previously, he was co-president of Pacific Rim Global Markets & Investment Banking, where he was jointly responsible for debt, equity and investment banking businesses in the region. Before that he was head of the Debt Issuer Client Group in Europe, according to Merrill’s website.

Chunilal joined Merrill Lynch in 1989 and held a variety of positions in London and New York covering sovereigns, corporates and financial institutions.

By Michael Flaherty
(Editing by Anne Marie Roantree)