BofA Ditches the Middle Class

Three sources familiar with Bank of America Merill Lynch (NYSE:BAC) said the company has put its wealth management units outside the United States up for sale in hopes of bringing in $3 billion.

While Bank of America is the world’s largest wealth management arm — sources say it manages about $90 billion for its richer clients — its non-U.S. sector is not large enough to generate money.

“There is a lot of soul-searching going on by a lot of players as to what to do with their non-U.S. private banking operations,” a fourth source said.

BofA’s non-U.S. business reaches out to “mass affluent” clients whose wealth is measured in hundred of thousands of dollars, rather than its ultra-wealthy clients worth tens of millions. However, the company has never been able to match the successes of its home market, preventing it from becoming a big money-maker for the firm.

Bank of America declined to comment on the issue.

According to the sources, Bank of America asked potential buyers to put in first-round bids this week, as the company was looking to sell the unit as a whole for up to $3 billion.

“The people I spoke to are not expecting this to be a particularly rapid process, just given the broad scope of the operations’ geography and the relative skinny information that was made available,” the source said.

The person added that there were only a handful of companies who could spend money on the business, including UBS (NYSE:UBS), Credit Suisse (NYSE:CS), Deutsche Bank (NYSE:DB), JPMorgan Chase & Co (NYSE:JPM), and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC).