BofA Defends Deal Stance

CEO Lewis says organic growth is huge.
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Bank of America

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CEO Ken Lewis defended the bank's recent spate of acquisitions, saying it fully intends to grow organically.

Lewis made the remarks at the Charlotte, N.C., banking giant's annual meeting Wednesday.

"For the past nine years, we have focused primarily on generating organic growth through process improvement, increasing customer satisfaction and product innovation," Lewis said in prepared remarks issued by Bank of America in a press release. "At the same time, we have taken advantage of select opportunities presented to us to enter new markets."

Lewis cited areas such as mortgage, small business banking and catering to the mass affluent needs as areas in which the company can expand. He also sees "significant growth opportunities" in markets where BofA has a small presence, Lewis said.

He used this week's planned $21 billion acquisition of LaSalle Bank in Chicago as an example of this approach.

The deal has been criticized by critics who say it's likely to put a lid on BofA's stock in the near future.

The bank also faces big merger-integration headaches from two other deals in the hopper -- a $3.3 billion deal for

Charles Schwab's

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wealth management firm, U.S. Trust, and its part in a $25 billion takeout of student lender

Sallie Mae

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, which was announced last week.

Shares of BofA rose 8 cents to $50.70.