BAC to the Future

July 31, 2009

Now that the dark days of TARP force-feedings, congressional hearings and ill-conceived mergers are behind it, Bank of America is getting back to the business of expanding in the world’s most enduring pot of fabled gold, China. The bank sent a memo around saying it had rehired a China hand to head its corporate finance business there.

Wang Bing, who worked for Merrill Lynch between 2004 and 2008 in various management roles, including dealmaking in China, is back with Bank of America-Merrill Lynch as a managing director, according to the memo. On Thursday, we reported that Bank of America plans to set up a wholly owned subsidiary in China to bolster its corporate, investment banking and wealth management businesses.

In May, Bank of America sold $7.3 billion worth of shares in China Construction Bank. It needed the cash, so turning its back on such a long-term position made sense at the time. The news this week is hardly as dramatic, in scope or in value, but it is significant. If nothing else, it shows the bank trying to get back to the business of anticipating global growth. It will be interesting to see if the bank is any more effective at growing in China as a local business rather than as a partner with big, Beijing-favored China Construction Bank.

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