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BofA sells more European credit cards to Apollo

By Greg Roumeliotis and Rick Rothacker

NEW YORK/CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) - Apollo Global Management LLC said on Wednesday it was doubling down on Bank of America Corp's European assets, agreeing to buy its Irish consumer credit card portfolio after acquiring its Spanish credit card unit last summer.

The euro zone debt crisis and fragile financial markets have weighed on the value of European assets of banks, many of which are looking to shed them to strengthen their balance sheet, even if this may spell write-downs if they sell at knock-down prices.

Apollo said in a statement on Wednesday it had a definitive agreement to buy Bank of America's Irish consumer credit card portfolio, which includes over 200,000 customer accounts with a balance of over 650 million euros of receivables.

"This transaction underscores Apollo's ability to leverage its integrated platform in pursuit of the attractive investment opportunities arising out of the restructuring of the European financial services landscape," David Abrams, managing partner of Apollo's European Principal Finance Fund I (EPF), said in the statement.

The credit card accounts will continue to be managed in Ireland at a unit staffed by 250 people, Apollo said. Its EPF fund has been on the hunt for European non-performing and illiquid loan portfolios divested by financial institutions, inking 20 deals totaling more than 7 billion euros of loans over the past four years.

Bank of America announced its intention to sell its Irish credit card unit in August as part of a strategy to shed non-core businesses to streamline the company and build capital.

The bank announced last year it would sell its credit card business in Spain to Apollo and its Canadian unit to TD Bank Group . The bank has also said it intends to sell its card business in Britain.

Financial terms of the Irish credit card portfolio sale were not disclosed on Wednesday. A Bank of America spokesman said the sale of the Irish unit was consistent with the bank's previously announced strategy, but declined further comment.

In the fourth quarter of last year, Bank of America took a $581 million goodwill impairment charge for its European consumer card business, concluding that the carrying amount of the business exceeded the fair value due to a decrease in estimated growth projections, according to its annual report.

In selling the international consumer credit card businesses, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan is parting with pieces of credit card giant MBNA Corp, which his predecessor Ken Lewis acquired for $35 billion in 2006.

(Additional reporting by Aman Shah in Bangalore)

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