By Rick Rothacker
(Reuters) - Bank of America Corp plans to sell and lease back three buildings it owns in New York and Charlotte, North Carolina, as it looks to shed non-core assets under an ongoing efficiency program
The properties are the Fifth Third Center and the Hearst Tower in Charlotte, and 222 Broadway in lower Manhattan, which BofA inherited in the 2009 Merrill Lynch acquisition, bank spokeswoman Kelli Raulerson said.
She declined to comment on whether the bank has buyers lined up.
BofA Chief Executive Officer Brian Moynihan last fall said the second-largest U.S. bank would look to streamline the space it has assembled through years of acquisitions as part of its New BAC cost-cutting program. The Charlotte-based bank is also looking to build capital to absorb mortgage-related losses and meet new international standards.
The sale of the buildings will not affect employees or third-party tenants, Raulerson said. The Hearst Tower houses a three-story trading floor, which sources say has lost traders over the years as the bank shifts more investment banking operations to New York.
"Real estate ownership is not a core business for Bank of America," Raulerson said. "Therefore, we are currently reviewing our portfolio and making the decision to sell our ownership interest in certain properties."
The bank has a long history in Charlotte and New York and expects to maintain a "significant presence" in those cities for years to come, she said.
Among other properties, the bank still owns its headquarters building in Charlotte and has a 49 percent ownership stake in the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park, its base in Midtown Manhattan. Those properties are not part of the review, Raulerson said.
Separately, the bank said last month that corporate workplace executive Gene Godbold, who is in charge of the bank's properties, will retire on February 15. His duties will be assumed by global corporate services executive Patty Clement, who reports to Chief Financial Officer Bruce Thompson.
(Reporting By Rick Rothacker; editing by John Wallace)