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Source: WaMu may sell WM Group

Sat., July 15, 2006

Two major consumer banks are taking steps to sell their asset-management arms, sources said, continuing a trend in which financial-services companies look to shed businesses where they lack scale to refocus on their core areas.

Comerica Inc., a regional bank based in Detroit, is in talks to unload its Munder Capital Management unit. The Birmingham, Mich., firm, which managed about $41.5 billion in assets as of March 31, has attracted interest from private-equity funds including Crestview Partners in New York, people working in mergers and acquisitions said.

Meanwhile, Washington Mutual Inc., the nation’s largest savings and loan, has hired investment bankers to explore a sale of its WM Group of Funds, people in the field said.

Washington Mutual, based in Seattle, is seeking up to $500 million for the fund family, an investment banker said. The unit had about $26.4 billion in assets under management on March 31. Bankers say possible buyers include other asset-management firms or brokerages such as Ameriprise Financial Inc., which has its own fund-management arm, RiverSource Investments LLC.

•Moody’s Investors Service lowered Ford Motor Co.’s credit rating further into junk status Friday, saying the market shift from big SUVs to cars was hurting the company’s prospects for recovery.

Moody’s lowered Ford’s credit rating to B2 from Ba3. It also lowered the long-term credit rating of the company’s finance arm, Ford Motor Credit Co., to Ba3 from Ba2.

Moody’s said the downgrade reflected its expectation that high fuel prices and the resulting shift away from highly profitable sport utility vehicles would further damage the company’s profits.

•Lawyers and consultants involved in Delta Air Lines Inc.’s bankruptcy case are asking for another $32.8 million in fees and expenses primarily covering four months of work.

A hearing on the requests by 23 different firms and individuals is scheduled for Aug. 22. If approved, it would bring the total amount of professional compensation allowed so far in the case to $74.2 million.

That total doesn’t include money requested by certain firms that have not yet been paid and money held back from Delta’s auditor on a previous pay request.


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