BofA/Countrywide Deal Could Close Within Two Weeks: Report

Bank of America Corp. (BAC) isn’t going to wait to close in on its intended merger with Countrywide Financial Corp. (CFC), according to published news reports on Friday that said the merger is now expected to be completed on July 1. Of course, that date is assuming that shareholders approve the deal on June 25; HW’s sources suggest that an approval is likely. The North Carolina-based bank had originally said it expected to complete the acquisition during the third quarter — and the July 1 date means that it may end up doing so on the very first day of Q3. It’s not exactly clear, however, if the deal has been accelerated or if the July 1 date was originally planned. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Bank of America has confirmed the expected closing date, which was initially circulated among Countrywide employees via an internal email. Bank of America’s share price, along with that of nearly every financial sector company, has taken a beating since the deal was originally announced — which has driven the cost of acquiring the troubled Calabasas-based lender and servicer down dramatically. BofA’s offer revolves around a 0.1822 multiple for each share of Countrywide stock; on January 11, when the deal was first announced, that multiple translated to just over $7 per share for Countrywide, based on BofA’s share price of $38.50. Bank of America’s shares have slipped significantly since then, trading at $27.50 by Friday afternoon on the New York Stock Exchange when this story was published; that translates to just over $5 per share for Countrywide’s common stock — meaning that BofA has seen the aggregate purchase price fall from roughly $4 billion to $3 billion in just over six months. While there has been plenty of hemming and hawing over the precarious position of Countrywide’s bondholders should the deal go through — Bank of America has not said what it will do with Countrywide’s debt, after all, and mushrooming liabilities at Countrywide could leave bondholders out in the cold — the Journal reported Friday morning that the cost of insuring Countrywide’s bond against default actually fell on Thursday, signaling that debt investors at least see Countrywide as relatively less likely to default on its corporate bonds. Disclosure: The author was long CFC when this story was originally published. HW reporters and writers follow a strict disclosure policy, the first in the mortgage trade.

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