January 8, 2008 / 11:14 PM / 13 years ago

Merrill to keep HQ at World Financial Center: report

A Merrill Lynch office building is seen in Great Neck, New York, October 30, 2007. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Merrill Lynch & Co Inc MER.N, hurt by huge mortgage losses, is in final negotiations to renew its headquarters lease in Manhattan’s World Financial Center, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

Previously, published reports said Merrill Lynch was negotiating to build a new office skyscraper at the site of the Hotel Pennsylvania, which is across the street from Penn Station in midtown Manhattan.

But under the leadership of new Chief Executive John Thain, it looks as though Merrill Lynch will focus on bolstering its balance sheet after taking an $8.4 billion write-down in the third quarter. Analysts expect that figure to be eclipsed next week when Merrill reports year-end results.

The company was not available for comment.

The Wall Street Journal said the five-year renewal lease with Brookfield Properties Corp, landlord of the World Financial Center complex, has not been signed and the deal could still fall apart.

If Merrill stays, it would be a boost for the financial district near the site of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Reporting by Tim McLaughlin; Editing by Andre Grenon

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