Merrill Lynch & Co., preparing for its biggest expansion since the 1990s, plans to buy a mortgage lender, triple its corporate investments and increase trading bets to boost shareholder returns that trail those of rivals, media reports said. New York-based Merrill's top managers spent the past six months determining how to spend "excess capital," Chief Administrative Officer Ahmass Fakahany said in an interview with business publication Bloomberg last week. "What's new is an increased emphasis on building our institutional business," Fakahany, 47, told Bloomberg. "When I say mortgage origination will take capital, that's because it requires an acquisition." The biggest U.S. mortgage lenders not owned by major banks include Countrywide Financial Corp., Ameriquest Mortgage Co. and Indy...
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