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Bank of America in Advanced Talks to Acquire Countrywide

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Bank of America is in advanced talks to acquire ailing mortgage lender Countrywide Financial.

According to the Journal, two people familiar with the matter said it may happen very soon, but noted that it’s also possible that any agreement could be delayed or fall apart altogether.

It is believed that an announcement regarding the matter will be made either late today or tomorrow morning.

In August, many believed Bank of America was gearing up to take over Countrywide after buying $2 billion in preferred shares convertible to about a 16% stake in the company.

But since then, Countrywide shares have fallen tremendously, briefly dipping to $4.43 Wednesday, an all-time low for the struggling Calabasas-based lender.

Shares of Countrywide rocketed shortly after the report was released, climbing $3.27, or 63.87%, to $8.39 in late afternoon trading on Wall Street, while Bank of America rose marginally.

Bank of America now holds 9.88% of the country’s deposits after its acquisition of LaSalle Bank in September, just below the federal limit which prohibits a bank from controlling more than 10% of U.S. deposits.

However, the law does not apply to federally chartered thrifts, one of which happens to be Countrywide Bank.

If successful, the deal would bring together the top U.S. mortgage lender with the second largest bank in the United States.

Nearly a year ago, the two financial giants met to discuss a possible alliance when Countrywide was trading around $42.

Bank of America declined to comment, as it doesn’t respond to rumors or speculation, while Countrywide representatives failed to respond to a request for a comment.

Shares of related companies surged as well, with IndyMac up over 16%, MGIC up 12%, Fannie up more than 6%, and Washington Mutual gaining more than 11%.

In similar news, Legg Mason revealed a 9.08 percent passive stake in Thornburg Mortgage, up from 4.35 percent, according to a previous SEC filing.

Updates: The New York Stock Exchange said it has contacted Countrywide, asking the company to make a statement regarding the unusual activity of its stock.

Analysts believe regulators would likely approve the takeover because a possible bankruptcy would further disrupt the market.

Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo could receive $36.4 million if the company were to be taken over, according to regulatory filings and compensation experts.

The deal looks like a go…and should be announced tomorrow. Sources say it’s an all-stock deal valued at just over $4 billion.

Rumors: There are some interesting rumors floating around regarding the takeover news.

Some say that the deal was facilitated by Washington, who couldn’t possibly let the top lender fail. Apparently the Countrywide bankruptcy rumors may have been true.

Others say there was another interested buyer, but Bank of America has the right of first refusal.

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