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Bank of America

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has caught a lot of grief for its acquisition of

Merrill Lynch

, including from


, but the deal is already showing some benefits.

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) have been raising equity at a strong clip in recent weeks, and the combined BofA/Merrill has been doing the bulk of the underwriting. The head of real estate investment banking at a rival bank says REITs like raising equity with Merrill because its huge brokerage force sells the offering to its retail investor clients. However, he says much of the recent sales have gone to institutional money managers.

U.S. REITs have priced 14 secondary offerings in April alone, according to the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT). REITs have raised $7.35 billion in 21 offerings through April, compared to $11.1 billion in 60 offerings last year. And analysts believe REITs will need plenty more equity as they try to reduce the debt they raised before the crisis hit.

That bodes well for BofA, which has already racked up more than $100 million in investment banking fees from REITs, better than any other bank through Thursday, according to Dealogic. That compares to just $66 million for second-place

JPMorgan Chase

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and $43 million for third-place underwriter

Deutsche Bank

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Surprisingly left out of all the REIT fundraising is

Morgan Stanley

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. Though the bank is widely thought to be a power in real estate investment banking, it is in eighth place. A Morgan Stanley spokeswoman declined to comment.

Outside of the REIT space, BofA hasn't dominated, but it has held its own, according to Dealogic data. Though it is technically in first place in terms of investment banking revenue year-to-date through Thursday, it drops to third, behind JPMorgan and

Goldman Sachs

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if one removes the $40 million it gave itself for work on the BofA-Merrill merger. Still, the approximately $620 million in U.S. investment banking revenues puts it well ahead of


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, which finished fourth in that category with $517 million.

Maybe even more noteworthy is that BofA, which long struggled to put together an international investment banking franchise, is currently in third place on a global basis, according to



BofA's success is especially surprising because BofA CEO Ken Lewis famously expressed his dislike for the investment banking business in 2007, when he said, "I've had all the fun I can stand in investment banking at the moment."While he has said the statement was taken out of context, it seemed borne out by all the high levels departures from Merrill at the start of the year.

Richard Bove, analyst at

Rochdale Securities

, says he has discussed the issue with Lewis in a one on one meeting. "He was very clear that the growth of the business is not in retail banking. The growth of the business is in the capital markets arena."

BofA spokespeople did not respond to calls and email messages seeking comment.