Mark these words: "Bank of America does not need further assistance today, and I am confident that we will not need further assistance in the future."That's what Bank of America ( BAC) CEO Ken Lewis stated in a memo to BofA staff last month, according to an analysis by TheStreet.com's Lauren LaCapra. He even went so far as to tell the Financial Times Monday that BofA only needed half of the $20 billion it sought from taxpayer bailout funds to cover costs from the Merrill Lynch ( MER) takeover. So what are you doing with the other $10 billion, Ken? Bravado aside, let's look at the stats. BofA reported a fourth-quarter net loss of $1.79 billion. That doesn't even include a $15.31 billion quarterly loss at Merrill because the deal closed after the end of the quarter. Therein lies the rub. What more damage may come from the Merrill acquisition? And what about the previous Countrywide takeover and all that exposure to the mortgage markets? This company, which I dubbed FrankenBank in a previous column, is overflowing with risk from all these takeovers. On its quarterly earnings conference call in January, Bank of America told investors that possibly bigger losses were in the cards for coming quarters. So is there really reason for hope here, Ken? Or are you just trying to talk investors into letting you keep your job? Standard & Poor's doesn't share the optimism -- it lowered BofA's credit rating yesterday to "A" from "A+" with a negative outlook.
A preview of the federal government's planned "stress test" conducted by TSC Ratings analyst Philip Van Doorn shows that before the recent government infusion to help with the Merrill takeover, Bank of America was showing signs of needing more capital. And some say it still does. And let's not forget how Citigroup ( C) and AIG ( AIG) came back to the government for new deals recently. So, Ken, we'll need more than your empty assurances that everything is OK.