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Stifel Is Said to Be in Exclusive Talks to Buy Morgan Keegan

Stifel Financial Corp. is in exclusive talks to buy Regions Financial Corp.’s Morgan Keegan brokerage after prevailing over private-equity bidders, said people with knowledge of the matter.

Stifel remains days or weeks away from agreeing to an acquisition and may not reach a deal, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions are private. Regions dropped talks with two groups of buyout firms, one comprising Carlyle Group and Blackstone Group LP, and the other made up of Thomas H. Lee Partners LP and Aquiline Capital Partners LLC, the people said.

A combination would unite two of the largest U.S. regional brokerages, with a combined workforce of about 3,000 financial advisers. It would be the biggest deal ever for St. Louis-based Stifel’s chief executive officer, Ron Kruszewski, who’s quintupled revenue since 2005 through acquisitions.

Evelyn Mitchell, a spokeswoman for Regions, declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Stifel didn’t return a call seeking comment.

Regions, Alabama’s biggest bank, is seeking a sale of Morgan Keegan to help boost capital and repay a $3.5 billion U.S. bailout.

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