This Overweight Bank Is on a Crash Diet


Bank of America (NYS: BAC) needs cash, and it needs it now. That's why it is selling half of its stake in China Construction Bank for $8.3 billion. Some analysts feel this is not a good strategic move, but one fueled by a desperate need to raise about $50 billion to meet new global banking rules.

Yard sale
So far the bank has raised about $30 billion in a year-and-a-half long frenzy of selling off its non-core assets.

These weight reduction exercises have including pawning off its Canadian credit card unit to Toronto-Dominion Bank (NYS: TD) for $7.6 billion. TD Bank will also take on $1.1 billion worth of Bank of America's liabilities.

Bank of America already announced it will be selling off its Spanish credit card business to Apollo Capital Management (NAS: APOL) , and passing a portion of its lending portfolio in the U.K. to Barclays. The company also plans to sell its credit card operations in Britain and Ireland.

CEO Brian Moynihan said the bank wants to concentrate on corporate lending, investment banking, and domestic retail banking customers. With the Chinese Construction Bank deal, Moynihan has sold more than 20 Bank of America assets since taking over in 2010 from former CEO Kenneth Lewis.

Lewis had acquired more than $130 billion in assets for the bank, including Countrywide, Merrill Lynch, and First Republic Bank. Since then, Moynihan has already divested First Republic Bank and shares in BlackRock and Brazilian bank Itau Unibanco Holding.

Getting rid of a bad penny
Countrywide is a continuing headache for Moynihan. In addition to a consortium of investors suing Countrywide for alleged breaches of warranty, AIG (NYS: AIG) is suing Bank of America for $10 billion, alleging Countrywide sold it investments backed by bad mortgages. Bank of America has since written Countrywide off its books, but it's proving to be the gift that keeps on taking.

Many of the bank's foreign sell-offs were done to meet higher capital requirements that are meant to reduce the risk of another financial crisis.

Citigroup (NYS: C) has also been shedding its non-core assets. Last year it sold its Canadian credit card business to the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

Rebalancing the checkbook
Bank of America is trying to get back to good financial health without having to issue more stock beyond last week's $5 billion investment by Warren Buffett. It will be a delicate balancing act for Moynihan, who has to be careful he doesn't throw out the baby with the bathwater.

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At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorDan Radovskyhas no financial in any of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Citigroup, Bank of America, and AIG. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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