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CHARLOTTE, NC-Bank of America Corp. has received a new $20-billion infusion of TARP funds, on top of $25 billion it received earlier, as the nation’s largest bank posted a $2.4-billion loss for the fourth quarter. The loss for the last three months of 2008 is its first quarterly loss in 17 years, and does not include a $15.3-billion loss suffered by Merrill Lynch, which became part of locally based Bank of America on Jan. 1.

The fourth-quarter loss is attributed to write-downs and trading losses in the bank’s capital markets business, while most of its core business units remained profitable. Nevertheless, Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis reiterated that continued economic uncertainty, market turbulence and rising unemployment necessitated additional TARP funding.

The federal government is requiring banks receiving TARP funds to take prerequisite measures including limiting executive compensation and other assurances making repayment a priority. In keeping with these new requirements, Bank of America agreed to sharply cut its quarterly dividend from 32 cents to only a penny over the next three years.

As part of the latest agreement, the Federal Reserve and FDIC will protect Bank of America against further losses on $118 billion worth of capital markets exposure, mostly related to Merrill Lynch, with the bank covering the first $10 billion. In return, the government gets $24 billion in preferred stock, paying 8% annually.

Bank of America stated that it extended at least $115 billion in new loans during last year’s fourth quarter, while also setting aside more than $8.5 billion for bad loans. Net charge-offs nearly tripled over the year to $5.5 billion, or close to 2.4% of average loans and leases.

The $45 billion total in TARP funds received by Bank of America is now equal to that going to New York City-based Citigroup Inc. Some analysts credited Bank of America with having a very strong balance sheet prior to its takeover of Merrill Lynch.

Lewis says he expects Bank of America to return to profitability once the economy returns to normal. He added intently during a conference call: “The recession and credit crisis will end someday, and people will remember that our company was there for them in hard times.”

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