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Merrill Buys Advest Group

The $400 million deal adds about 500 brokers to Merrill's ranks.

Merrill Lynch

(MER)

is adding to its brokerage business, paying $400 million to buy Advest Group from

Axa Financial

(AXA)

.

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The cash deal will add 515 brokers to Merrill Lynch's ranks and strengthen its operations in the Northeast and Florida. Advest is based in Hartford, Conn.

Advest's brokerage business also includes

Boston Advisors

, a money management firm with $3 billion in assets. The deal also includes

Lebenthal

, the municipal bond firm founded by Jim Lebenthal.