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Merrill Lynch Layoffs Could Reach 7,000

One of the hardest-hit by the ongoing subprime mortgage crisis, Merrill had about 64,000 employees at the end of 2007, including 17,000 brokers.

April 4, 2008
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Merrill Lynch & Co. can’t catch a break. Less than a month after a handful of analysts predicted major write-downs at the New York-based investment bank, CNBC reported April 3 that Merrill is poised to lay off between 10 percent and 15 percent of its non-broker workforce.

One of the hardest-hit by the ongoing subprime mortgage crisis, Merrill had about 64,000 employees at the end of 2007, including 17,000 brokers, meaning as many as 7,000 layoffs could be coming.

CNBC reported that Merrill chief executive John Thain, a recent transplant from NYSE Euronext, is expected to finish a review of the firm’s headcount by the end of April.

Though Merrill confirmed April 3 that jobs will be cut, the bank would not disclose how many positions are up for elimination.

Analysts are already expecting some sour news when Merrill reports first-quarter earnings April 17. Last month, Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Meredith Whitney predicted the firm would write down $6 billion for the quarter and post a loss of $3 per share, while Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Brad Hintz says Merrill will write down $4.5 billion and post a $1.60 per-share loss.

Last week, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analyst William Tanona estimated the bank would post a loss of $2.45 per share, compared with his previous estimate of earnings of 25 cents per share.

On April 3, Lehman Bros. Holdings Inc. analyst Roger Freeman said Merrill will lose $2.75 per share in the first quarter because of write-downs linked to collateralized debt obligations. Freeman had previously estimated Merrill would have a first-quarter profit 19 cents per share.

For the fourth quarter, Merrill reported a record loss of $9.83 billion, or $12.01 per share, due to a $16.7 billion write-down stemming from the subprime loan meltdown.

The new report tops a previous CNBC report that Merrill would lay off 1,600 people, about 2.5 percent of its workforce.

Filed by Kira Bindrim of Crain’s New York Business, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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