Merrill shocks Wall Street with $8.5bn share sale

Merrill Lynch, the investment banking giant that has lost more than $40bn (£20.1bn) on its mortgage investments since the start of the credit crisis, shocked Wall Street last night with plans to raise $8.5bn in new shares.

As part of a sweeping financial restructuring, the company is dumping most of its remaining holdings in risky mortgage derivatives and tapping the Singapore government for an emergency $3.4bn cash infusion.

Existing shareholders will have their stakes in the company viciously diluted by the new share sale, and anger last night immediately focused on John Thain, chief executive since last November, who had promised on more than one occasion in recent months that Merrill did not need to raise new equity capital.

Instead, he had told shareholders he would raise money through selling assets, such as Merrill's 20 per cent stake in the Bloomberg financial information business, which it offloaded this month for $4.4bn.

Mr Thain gambled yesterday that the dramatic new moves to rid Merrill of its toxic mortgage portfolio would be enough to restore confidence, and that they would be seen as a once-and-for-all clean up of the company.

A portfolio of mortgage derivatives known as collateralised debt obligations (CDOs) that Merrill had valued at $11.1bn as recently as a fortnight ago, were offloaded last night for $6.7bn. Before the credit crisis struck, that portfolio had been worth $30bn.

"The sale of the substantial majority of our CDO positions represents a significant milestone in our risk-reduction efforts," Mr Thain said. "Our consistent focus has been to opportunistically reduce risk, and, in order to take advantage of this sizeable sale on an accelerated basis, we have decided to further enhance our capital position by issuing common stock."

The $8.5bn share sale will be substantially dilutive to existing shareholders, since it equates to more than a quarter of Merrill's current market capitalisation. Temasek, the investment arm of the Singapore government is contributing $3.4bn to the fundraising, adding to the $4.4bn it invested in the company last December and underscoring again the new global financial power of sovereign wealth funds from emerging market countries. Temasek also contributed £160m to the recent fundraising by Barclays in the UK.

The news of Merrill's financial restructuring came after a day of mounting rumours it was facing new writedowns, just 11 days after it had posted its last results, containing a bigger-than-expected $9.4bn of writedowns. Its shares sunk 12 per cent to their lowest close in almost 10 years.

The firesale of the majority of the remaining portfolio will trigger another $4.4bn writedown for the next quarter's results, and the winding down of hedge positions will add a further $1.3bn.

Risky mortgage derivatives have become all but impossible to value while the US housing market remains in freefall, since their value ultimately derives from the value of the underlying collateral – namely, US houses.

Merrill executives hope the sale of the bulk of its holdings will create some clarity about the value of the company's remaining assets. Some of that optimism was reflected in the share price in after-hours trading last night when the stock, which originally slipped further in the wake of the announcement, staged a modest rebound.

Mr Thain – a former Goldman Sachs executive and most recently head of the New York Stock Exchange – arrived at Merrill last November after the sacking of Stan O'Neal, the former chief executive, who had pioneered the company's push into risky derivatives markets and turned Merrill into one of the biggest issuers of CDOs.

Sport
Brazilian fans watch the match for third place between Brazil and Netherlands
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: Dutch pile on the misery in third place playoff
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Directory, ITIL, Reuter)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Dire...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?