Lehman to File Bankruptcy, BofA to Buy Merrill, UPDATED

The New York Times reports:

According to people briefed on the matter, Lehman Brothers will file for bankruptcy protection on Sunday night, in the largest failure of an investment bank since the collapse of Drexel Burnham Lambert 18 years ago.

Lehman will seek to place its parent company, Lehman Brothers Holdings, into bankruptcy protection, while its subsidiaries will remain solvent while the firm liquidates its holdings, these people said. A consortium of banks will provide a financial backstop to help provide an orderly winding down of the 158-year-old investment bank. And the Federal Reserve has agreed to accept lower-quality assets in return for loans from the government.

But Lehman’s filing is unlikely to resemble those of other companies that seek bankruptcy protection. Because of the harsher treatment that federal bankruptcy law applies to financial-services firm, Lehman cannot hope to reorganize and survive as a going concern. It will instead liquidate its holdings.

In related news, while Bank of America apparently balked at the purchase of Lehman Brothers, according to The Wall Street Journal, they have agreed to purchase Merrill Lynch for $29 per share in an all stock deal:

In a rushed bid to ride out the storm sweeping American finance, 94-year-old Merrill Lynch & Co. agreed late Sunday to sell itself to Bank of America Corp. for roughly $44 billion.

The deal, which was being worked out in 48 hours of frenetic negotiating, could instantly reshape the U.S. banking landscape, making the nation’s prime behemoth even bigger. The boards of the two companies approved the deal Sunday evening, according to people familiar with the matter.

My gut feeling here is that Bank of America is overpaying for Merrill (as they did for Countrywide). However, it might (I stress might) ease some concerns in the market tomorrow as Merrill would likely have been next on the “potential failure” watch list.

This thing is NOT over yet. AIG is likely the next firm on the watch list given this report from the WSJ:

Insurer American International Group Inc., succumbing to relentless investor pressure that drove its shares down 31% on Friday alone, is pulling together a survival plan that includes selling off some of its most valuable assets, raising more capital and possibly going to the Federal Reserve for help, people familiar with the situation said.

UPDATE:

Fed Plans Expanded Lending Facilities — WSJ

WSJ: Banks Roll Out $70 Billion Loan Program:

A group of global banks and securities firms announced late Sunday a $70 billion loan program that financial companies can tap to help ease a credit shortage that threatens global financial markets.

The ten banks, which include JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., said they were committing $7 billion each for the pool. The pool would act as a signal to the marketplace that banks, brokerages, and other financial companies can lean on the fund to take care of borrowing needs.

The banks said the program will be available to participating banks which can get a cash infusion up to a maximum of one-third of the total size of the pool. The size of the loan program might increase as “other banks are permitted to join.”

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