Is BofA/Merrill trying to disguise losses in its market share?

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By some measures, the combination of BofA and Merrill Lynch hasn't been particularly good for the investment banking operations of the combined entity.

In July, for example, figures included in a Credit Suisse report, suggested that BofA Merrill's ytd share of global investment banking fees was 6.9%, down from 9.6% a year earlier.

Whether the bank has since recouped its lost ground will never be known. The company that provided the data tells us it's been asked by BofA Merrill not to make year on year comparisons as they're 'not valid' on the grounds that you can't compare the share of two different banks (BofA and Merrill Lynch) with that of one bank (BofA Merrill Lynch).

Quite why this should be the case isn't clear. However, it will have the fortunate effect of muting discussion of what appears to be the comparatively large reduction in M&A advisory fees earned year on year at the combined bank.

In doing so, it may help keep Merrill's M&A bankers happy. Although senior MDs have been offered retention bonuses and more junior staff have had their salaries increased, people are still leaving. 15% of Merrill's managing directors in investment banking have departed since the merger according to Bloomberg.

Yesterday, the bank revealed a shakeup of its investment banking business, which included the promotion of veteran European Merrill dealmaker Andrea Orcel to executive chairman of global banking and markets. Orcel reputedly thought about leaving in January, but decided not to.

Headhunters say BofA Merrill has its work cut out retaining junior and mid-ranking M&A staff. "They're an obvious target house," says one.

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