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Merrill Boss Bets On High Profits To Feed Latest Addiction

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Merrill Lynch is expected to announce a 28% rise in fourth-quarter net income tomorrow, to $1.78 billion ($1.88/share), bringing their 2006 profit to $6.9 billion, the highest since it was founded* in 1914. Here’s hoping, for ML’s sake, those numbers are on target, because erstwhile penny-pincher E. Stanley O’Neal's spending habits depend on them.

Merrill Lynch & Co. Chief Executive Officer Stanley O'Neal is making acquisitions at the fastest pace in more than a decade to catch up with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in commodities and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in trading mortgage bonds.
Merrill has spent more than $2.6 billion to purchase 17 companies since 2004, including last year's takeovers of mortgage lender First Franklin Financial Corp. and Denver-based Petrie Parkman & Co., which specializes in investment banking for energy companies. O'Neal told shareholders in November that he may make ``bolt-on'' purchases to expand Merrill's brokerage unit, already the nation's biggest.
O'Neal took advantage of last year's record earnings to invest in the fastest-growing parts of the securities industry. That's a reversal from 2002, when he took over as CEO and cut 20,000 jobs at the New York-based firm as stock markets slumped.

*by Amherst grad Charles E. Merrill, Class of 1908. Just sayin’. Also created by AC grads? Frozen foods (Clarence Birdseye) and the Dewey Decimal system (Melvil Dewey, Class of 1874). Don’t act like you’re not impressed. You’re not? Five words: the father from “7th Heaven.”
Merrill Makes Acquisitions at Fastest Pace in Decade [Bloomberg]