Bank of America says Merrill to cut 2009 earnings

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bank of America Corp Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis said on Monday that his company’s deal to buy Merrill Lynch & Co would create a bank that would have taken 10 years to build -- but would also trim near-term earnings.

On a conference call with investors, Lewis said the purchase, expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2009, would reduce earnings per share by 3 percent next year. He expects the combined entity to break even in 2010.

Bank of America also announced that it would see a $2 billion restructuring charge from the transaction, which values Merrill at $50 billion. Lewis said he expected the deal to cut costs by $7 billion pretax.

“This creates the company it would have taken a decade to build,” said Lewis.

Reporting by Elinor Comlay; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn