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Bank of America announced today that it would acquire Countrywide for $4 billion in stock, ending months of speculation that the beleaguered mortgage originator could go bankrupt. Since last summer, when it started to become apparent how much trouble the mortgage industry was in, there have been fears that large lenders like Countrywide would pull back their online ad spending. But so far that fear hasn’t materialized. As Larry Dignan points out, Countrywide actually spent more online in November than it did in August ($57.6 million vs. $34.7 million), in what looks like a furious attempt to dredge up business. It may be too early to know for sure what today’s deal means for online advertising. The deal isn’t expected to close until Q3 and BofA CEO Ken Lewis says that several members of Countrywide’s senior management will be retained.
But BofA has an established retail channel it can sell through and it may deem that to be more effective than incessant online ads. Furthermore, on today’s conference call (transcript), Lewis assured that the company would do no subprime lending whatsoever, so it may not be as aggressive as Countrywide was about acquiring business. Meanwhile, there are already rumors about other deals along similar lines, lessening the intensity of the competition.