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BofA Said in Talks to Sell Merrill Property Assets to Blackstone

Bank of America Corp., the largest U.S. bank by assets, is in talks to sell real estate investments held by its Merrill Lynch unit to Blackstone Group LP for as much as $1 billion, said a person with knowledge of the matter.

The assets include properties in Europe, the U.S. and South America, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the negotiations are private. Bank of America in July 2010 hired Blackstone to manage Merrill’s Asian real estate investments while retaining ownership in what was a $2 billion private-equity fund.

Jerome Dubrowski, a spokesman for Bank of America in Charlotte, North Carolina, declined to comment, as did Christine Anderson, a spokeswoman for Blackstone in New York. The talks were reported earlier today by the Financial Times.

Bank of America Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan has been selling assets including First Republic Bank and its stake in BlackRock Inc. to focus on corporate borrowers, investment banking and U.S. retail clients and to comply with new international capital standards. The company agreed yesterday to sell its Canadian credit-card unit to Toronto-Dominion Bank.

The lender will pursue the “aggressive selling of non-core assets to continue to generate capital, increase our focus and lower risk,” Moynihan said in a conference call last week.

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