Merrill Lynch takes $14.1 billion writedown

NEW YORK Thu Jan 17, 2008 9:17am EST

1 of 2. A graph showing Merrill Lynch's share performance for one year to the January 16,2008 close.

Credit: Reuters/Graphics

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Merrill Lynch & Co Inc 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 sheet with nearly $13 billion in capital infusions from U.S. and Asian investors.

(Reporting by Tim McLaughlin, editing by Mark Porter)

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