UPDATE 1-BofA hires Margaret Ren as BofA Merrill China chairman-memo

Tue Oct 16, 2012 6:50am EDT

* China veteran back at Merrill after stint at BNP Paribas

* Ren is daughter-in-law of former China premier Zhao Zhiyang

By Lawrence White and Michael Flaherty

HONG KONG, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Bank of America Corp hired veteran China banker Margaret Ren as chairman of its China business, a memo obtained by Reuters on Tuesday showed, bringing her back into the Merrill fold at a time when the bank is trying to expand its business inside the country.

BofA has moved to cut staff in Asia and streamline its business, though it has also embarked on the hiring of several senior bankers this year, including the signing of ex-Deutsche Bank regional markets chief Loh Boon Chye, and UBS M&A banker Stephen Gore.

Ren, who will be responsible for the firm's strategic direction in China, was the China investment banking Chairman for Merrill Lynch from 2007 to 2009. Since then she has worked at BNP Paribas as chairman for corporate finance, Greater China.

Ren is the daughter-in-law of former China premier Zhao Zhiyang, and was a China rainmaker at Citigroup until she left the bank in 2004.

A Bank of America spokesman confirmed the contents of the memo, but declined to comment further.

Under the leadership of former UBS global markets head Matthew Koder, BofA's Asia operation has sought to bring its corporate bank closer to its investment bank, leveraging the core business at the heart of the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company, with the dealmakers it acquired as part of the Merrill purchase in 2008.

BofA operates in China as Bank of America NA China, with branches in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. The bank does not have a stake in a Chinese securities joint venture.

Bank of America sold most of its remaining stake in China Construction Bank for around $6.6 billion in cash in November last year, leaving it with a 1 percent holding of the Chinese lender's common shares.

Prior to Merrill, Ren was a high-profile banker at Citigroup. She was suspended by the bank in June 2004 over an inquiry into the December 2003 $3.5 billion IPO of China Life Insurance Co .

Ren left Citigroup soon after the suspension and was cleared of any wrongdoing by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 2006.

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