Money & Company

Tracking the market and economic trends
that shape your finances.

« Previous Post | Money & Company Home | Next Post »

Bank of America won't be nationalized, CEO says

February 6, 2009 | 10:49 am

Bank of America Corp. shares are rebounding today, amid a broad rally in financial issues, after Chief Executive Ken Lewis insisted the bank wasn’t facing a government takeover.

In his first public comments since the bank’s shares plunged to a 25-year low on Thursday, Lewis told CNBC that he has talked to members of Congress and regulators, and that nationalization of the bank was "not even a remote possibility."

Those fears have battered the stock for much of the new year, after BofA was forced to seek a second infusion of government capital early in January to cover losses at its newly acquired Merrill Lynch & Co. unit.

BofA stock fell as low as $3.77 early in trading on Thursday, the lowest since 1984.

The shares were up $1.58, or 33%, to $6.42 at about 10:50 a.m. PST today -- though still down about 54% for the year.

Financial issues overall are leading the market rebound today as investors get ready for the Obama administration’s announcement Monday on the next phase of the financial system rescue.

Lewis said BofA was focused on being profitable and repaying its $45 billion in government capital "as soon as humanly possible." He also said "categorically" that the bank would not go back to the government for more money.

From CNBC:

"We're going to get on with doing business," Lewis said. "And frankly, we had a pretty good January."

As for the acquisition of Merrill Lynch, Lewis said he had no regrets in making it, and that "it will turn out to be a good investment over time." Lewis said that other firms wanted to invest in Merrill and that "BofA couldn't let the deal go, and we thought it was in our best interest and in the country's best interest to go ahead with the Merrill takeover."

As for the firing of former Merrill CEO John Thain, Lewis said, "I don't like to revisit the past; I'm sorry it happened and I wish John well."

-- Tom Petruno