JPMorgan could complete Bear deal by May 29-sources

NEW YORK Tue Apr 29, 2008 1:03am EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) could complete its $10-a-share takeover of rival Bear Stearns Cos BSC.N within "hours" after Bear stockholders vote on the fire-sale offer on May 29, people familiar with the situation said.

When JPMorgan, with Federal Reserve assistance, made its emergency March 16 offer of $2 a share for Bear, executives at Morgan predicted the deal could be completed in about 90 days, or mid- to late-June. Morgan raised its offer a week later to $10 a share but still targeted a June closing.

JPMorgan on Monday declined to comment on the timing.

The deal may take place as late as June 1, the date on which JPMorgan investment bank co-heads Steve Black and Bill Winters said employees at Bear would know their fates, according to an internal memo Monday.

More than half of Bear Stearns's 14,000 employees are expected to lose their jobs following the merger, which was prompted by Bears exposure to markets hard hit by the credit crunch and concerns in the market that it did not have enough capital to weather the storm.

Bear Stearns spokesman Russell Sherman did not return calls seeking comment.

Earlier on Monday, Bear set a date when stockholders would vote on JPMorgan's offer though the meeting is merely a formality. People familiar with the situation say the bigger bank has already accumulated about a 49.5 percent stake in Bear through several transactions.

The initial merger agreement was thrown together quickly after Bear saw its cash levels plunge and nearly declared bankruptcy in March. Morgan's senior corporate and investment bank managers have scrutinized Bears assets and staff in the past month.

Completing the deal sooner rather than later will help Morgan, which hopes to bolster investment banking, energy and other businesses. Wrapping things up would also help stem the flow of clients and employees, whose careers have been stuck in limbo for more than a month.

(Reporting by Joseph A. Giannone; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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