How About a Bank of America, GMAC Merger?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It would be an easy solution to a lot of problems.

Bank of America ( BAC) is searching for a new chief executive officer. Al de Molina, a former Bank of America executive and current GMAC CEO, is on the short list -- or off, depending on the latest speculation. Why not bring the two bailout corporations together in a marriage of convenience?

Both companies are in massive debt to the U.S. Treasury. Bank of America received $45 billion, and GMAC has gotten $13.4 billion to date.

GMAC is looking for additional capital to meet the Treasury's requirements, which include maintaining a 15% total risk-based capital ratio for three years, far higher than that for a regular bank. It also needs access to liquidity, such as the recently announced $2.9 billion raised through a bond issue backed under the FDIC's Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program.

GMAC may potentially need an additional $5.6 billion by Nov. 9. If the value of GMAC's assets has improved since bank "stress tests" results were released in May, as is likely, a smaller amount could satisfy the requirements.

Despite complaints about favoritism over bankruptcy treatment, GMAC is more than twice as big as CIT Group ( CIT), the commercial lender that filed for bankruptcy Nov. 1 after a U.S. bailout and debt-exchange offer failed. GMAC, which has a $181 billion balance sheet, is supporting the hopes and fears of thousands of General Motors ( MTLQQ) and Chrysler dealerships. To abandon GMAC would be irrational, even if you didn't support the bailout of the carmakers.

Bank of America isn't without its own problems, but the government needs an exit strategy from its ownership stake. Other GMAC shareholders, such as General Motors and private-equity firm Cerberus, could at least realize some cash from such a deal.

If Molina delivered GMAC to Bank of America, the government would have only one headache. After all, the feds arranged Merrill Lynch and Bank of America's wedding, which ultimately led to the vacancy at the top of Bank of America. GMAC would benefit from Bank of America's deep pockets.

The only surviving company that has received continued and increased funding during this financial crisis is American International Group ( AIG).

What would Bank of America gain from a merger with GMAC? For a start, a CEO with experience in managing an organization that has had to fight its way through a financial crisis that threatened to sink it.

Remember, Bank of America must find someone, and quickly. Molina is already salary-constrained by the pay czar as GMAC was bailed out, so he wouldn't have to double-check his wallet before agreeing to the role. Molina knows Bank of America well, is respected and, according to banking guru Thomas Brown, stood up to Ken Lewis, displaying his leadership.

What's more, Molina has an intimate knowledge of GMAC and would be able to rapidly leverage its strengths. After all, GMAC is the 14th-largest bank in the U.S.

As for Bank of America, the company would gain a substantial foothold in automotive financing, reducing its reliance on mortgage lending. GMAC also has an active commercial portfolio. Moreover, Bank of America is one of GMAC's biggest partners. The two companies in 2005 agreed to a five-year, $55 billion deal in which Bank of America would buy GMAC retail loans.

Some Bank of America board members may continue to resist Molina's proposed installation as CEO, but these things can be worked out, as he's apparently supported by some of the largest shareholders.

There are impediments to any marriage -- after all, "gift" in Swedish means both "married" and "poison" -- but are they so serious as to derail a Bank of America and GMAC union?

Reported by Gavin Magor in Jupiter, Fla.

Gavin Magor joined TheStreet.com Ratings in 2008, and is the senior analyst responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to health insurers and supporting other health care-related consumer products, including Medicare supplement insurance, long-term care insurance and elder care information. He conducts industry analysis in these areas. He has more than 20 years' international experience in credit risk management, commercial lending and analysis, working in the U.K., Sweden, Mexico, Brazil and the U.S. He holds a master's degree in business administration from The Open University in the U.K.

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