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Bank of America CEO Addresses MBIA Stake (Update 2)

Updated from 2:49 p.m. ET with a new final paragraph, updated share prices and a mention of MBIA settlement with Societe Generale

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Bank of America's (BAC) warrants to acquire up to a 4.9% stake in MBIA (MBI) were made in order to resolve a longstanding legal dispute between the companies, rather than as a growth initiative, CEO Brian Moynihan said Wednesday.

Bank of America's acquisition of the MBIA warrants was "a complete financial matter that was part of the negotiations," Moynihan said in response to an investor question at the bank's annual shareholder meeting, adding "you should not think that's a strategic holding in our company."

Moynihan likened the warrants to other stakes the bank has had which were worth "$60 billion a few years ago," but which the bank has been "liquidating over time. That's part of the way we generate our capital."

In the wake of the subprime crisis, Bank of America has sold stakes in several companies, including BlackRock Inc. (BLK), China Construction Bank and Brazil's Itau Unibanco. Those stakes, however, were acquired before the crisis, while the MBIA warrants were acquired Monday. The MBIA warrants are the legacy of disputes over pre-crisis business between MBIA and two companies -- Countrywide Financial and Merrill Lynch -- that were acquired by Bank of America.

In order to resolve longstanding litigation between Bank of America and MBIA over mortgage backed securities, the two companies reached a multi-faceted deal, including a $1.6 billion payment from Bank of America to MBIA. Bank of America also acquired warrants to buy up a 4.9% stake in MBIA at $9.49 per share, well below the more than $14 share price MBIA reached when the deal was announced Monday. MBIA shares closed up 7.57% to $15.48 Wednesday after the monoline bond insurer settled litigation with Societe Generale that had challenged a restructuring of MBIA. Bank of America shares rose 0.93% to $13.02.

As Bank of America moves to put legal disputes behind it, shareholders and analysts are increasingly focused on the bank's growth strategies. However, Moynihan's comment suggests Bank of America has no great interest in profiting from MBIA's plans to revive its municipal bond insurance business -- the insurer's major initiative as it repairs its balance sheet following mortgage backed securities losses tied to the subprime housing crisis.

Moynihan added that the bank's U.S. growth strategy is chiefly focused on supplying "four or five key products to people: banking accounts, debt cards, credit cards, home finance and car loans."

Analysts aren't yet convinced this will succeed, however.

"[Earnings per share] power remains unclear and expectations are high," wrote Deutsche Bank analyst Matt O'Connor of Bank of America as part of a sector-wide research report published Wednesday. O'Connor has a "hold" rating on Bank of America shares.

An MBIA spokesman declined to respond to Moynihan's comments.

The MBIA discussion took up just a small part of the meeting, at which all management proposals were approved, while all shareholder proposals were shot down. Much of the meeting was dominated by anti-coal activism led by the Sierra Club and Rainforest Action Network.

-- Written by Dan Freed in New York.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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