Bank of America to close Sunday on $35 billion deal for MBNA

Thursday, December 29th 2005, 12:53 pm
By: News On 6

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ It'll happen on a quiet Sunday morning, the first of the new year _ definitely not banker's hours.

But that might just be the perfect time for Bank of America Corp. to complete its $35 billion acquisition of MBNA Corp., because there won't be much _ if anything at all _ for consumers to notice once the deal is done.

When the paperwork is complete, the nation's second-largest bank will have 40 million active credit card accounts on its ledger, making it one of the leading worldwide payments-services companies and issuers of credit, debit and prepaid cards based on total purchase volume.

If there are changes coming to credit card fees and rates, or even a different look to the cards themselves, the bank isn't saying.

``No decisions have been made,'' Bank of America spokeswoman Alex Liftman said.

But Dick Bove, an analyst with Punk Ziegel & Co. in St. Petersburg, Fla., doubted most consumers will see much change in the months ahead, predicting that Bank of America will move its existing credit card system into that of MBNA's. Bank of America's new card services unit will be led by Bruce Hammonds, currently the chairman and chief executive of MBNA.

``I don't think that MBNA is going to change its major programs ... and those programs are far better than the Bank of America programs,'' Bove said.

MBNA is the leader in so-called affinity marketing, with established branding relationships with more than 5,000 organizations and financial institutions, from the National Football League to hundreds of medical organizations.

Bank of America has said its customers will benefit from access to a larger suite of credit card products after the deal, while giving MBNA customers access to banking, mortgage and investment products offered by Bank of America.

For now, Liftman said, executives from both companies are continuing to review each company's business practices and working to integrate the two companies. As part of the acquisition, Bank of America plans to eliminate 6,000 jobs across both companies, which the Charlotte-based bank has said will help it achieve overall cost savings of $850 million by 2007.

Wilmington, Del.-based MBNA has about 10,500 employees in its home state and 28,000 overall. Bank of America has more than 177,000 employees, and operates two credit card call centers in Delaware that employ about 1,300 workers.

Bove predicted the bulk of the job cuts will be among Bank of America employees as the company closes down its existing credit card processing operations in favor of MBNA facilities. He expects job losses will come within the next four to six weeks.

``It's demoralizing if they keep firing people over a period of a year. They way to do is it fire them all at once quickly and that issue is no longer on the books,'' Bove said.

Shares of Bank of America were up 4 cents to $46.31 in midday trading Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange, about a dollar off its 52-week high of $47.44.