November 30, 2011 / 10:25 PM / in 6 years

Bank of America shuts Brazil private banking unit

* Source says decision in line with global strategy

* Segment has become focus of local, global banks

* Comes as number of millionaires soar in Brazil

SAO PAULO, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Bank of America Merrill Lynch closed its private banking unit in Brazil, a source with knowledge of the situation told Reuters on Wednesday.

The decision “is in line with the bank’s global strategy of exiting those segments that are not highly profitable,” said the source, who declined to be named because the move has not been publicly announced.

Merrill Lynch, as the securities unit of the Charlotte-based bank is known, will focus on corporate and investment banking in Latin America’s biggest economy, the source added.

Private banking has become the focus of local and foreign players in Brazil’s financial markets as the commodity-rich economy, which has grown at an average rate of 4.5 percent over the past seven years, adds 19 millionaires a day. The segment offers services to high-end banking customers such as wealth management.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch is Brazil’s 30th largest asset manager, with about $3 billion in assets under management, according to Brazil’s Investment Banking Association data.

Merrill’s Brazil exit contrasts with moves by rivals to beef up their presence in the highly-lucrative market.

Swiss money manager Julius Baer bought a 30 percent stake in Brazilian wealth manager GPS for an undisclosed sum in May, while BTG Pactual, Brazil’s biggest independent securities firm, bought a 15 percent stake in asset manager Quest Investimentos last week

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