Julius Baer in talks with BofA for Merrill Lynch's non-US wealth business

Swiss private bank Julius Baer Holding AG yesterday said that it is in talks to buy Bank of AmericaCorp Merrill Lynch's international wealth-management business outside the US, a deal that could be worth up to $2 billion, according to analysts.

''Given the early stage of these discussions, the outcome is entirely open,'' Zurich, Switzerland-based Julius Baer said in a statement.

With $187 billion of assets under management, Julius Baer is looking at acquisitions in emerging markets and Europe in order to better compete with its larger domestic rivals UBS and Credit Suisse.

In 2010, Julius Baer acquired the European wealth management business of the Dutch firm ING Groep NV's for $506 million, a 30-per cent stake in Brazilian wealth manager GPS Investimentos Financeiros e Participacoes SA, and Macquarie Group's Asian private-client business last year.

But last November it lost out to Brazilian-Swiss private bank Safra Group in acquiring a controlling stake in Basel-based Bank Sarasin & Cie from Dutch banking cooperative Rabobank. Safra paid 1.04 billion francs for the stake.

The Merrill Lynch international wealth-management business deal would also help Julius Baer reduce its reliance on its home market after several countries recently come down heavily on Switzerland's banking secrecy and being a tax haven.