Merrill Explored North Fork Bid: Report

A published report says the securities firm considered making an offer last year.
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Securities giant

Merrill Lynch

(MER)

might be shopping for a retail-banking chain, if a published report is any indication of the company's interests.

Bloomberg

, citing two people familiar with the matter, reported Thursday that Merrill Chief Executive Stanley O'Neal considered making a bid for

North Fork Bancorp

(NFB)

. North Fork, based in Melville, N.Y., agreed this week to be acquired by credit-card issuer

Capital One

(COF) - Get Report

for more than $14 billion.

O'Neal met at least one time last year with John Kanas, the chairman and CEO of North Fork, according to the report. The discussions ended before the start of 2006, and Merrill didn't make an offer.

Shares of Merrill were lower by 22 cents, or 0.3%, at $78.58.