Accepting the Unacceptable--John Thain's Non Sequitur
Merrill takes $14.1 billion writedown
Reuters Thursday, January 17, 2008; 7:37 AM
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Merrill Lynch & Co Inc (MER.N) on Thursday said it took a $14.1 billion writedown and adjustments in the fourth quarter as bad subprime mortgage bets forced the brokerage to sell pieces of the company to foreign investors to raise capital.
Analysts expected Merrill's write-down to land anywhere from $10 billion to $15 billion. For the year, Merrill's subprime mortgage-related losses totaled nearly $23 billion.
Merrill reported a fourth-quarter net loss of $9.8 billion, or $12.01 a share, the largest in the company's history. The world's largest brokerage turned a profit of $2.3 billion, or $2.41 a share, in the year-ago period.
The results eclipse the $2.3 billion loss in the third quarter when Merrill recorded an $8.4 billion write-down.
In a statement, Chief Executive John Thain called the results "clearly unacceptable." But in the past month, Merrill has fortified its balance shee…