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Lehman to buy remaining Archstone stake for $1.6B

BANKOFAMERICA

Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. said it has bought the remaining 26.5 percent of apartment company Archstone that it doesn't already own from Barclays Capital and Bank of America Corp. (BAC-N) for $1.58 billion US.

Sources told Reuters on Thursday that Lehman had reached a deal to buy the last portion of the company.

The last slice of Archstone was critical to Lehman in order to block real estate investment trust Equity Residential (EQR-N) from controlling Archstone's fate.

In January, Lehman bought half the banks' stake, or 26.5 percent of Archstone, for $1.325 billion. That came after Barclays and Bank of America struck a deal to sell the 26.5-percent stake to Equity Residential. Equity Residential was also given the right to bid for the banks' remaining stake.

But Archstone's ownership structure gave Lehman the right to match the offer for the first slice. Lehman bought the stake and later filed a lawsuit against the two banks in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan.

Under the ownership structure, unless a party had at least 76-percent stake, all important decisions regarding Archstone needed to be unanimous.

Equity Residential, whose chairman is Sam Zell, will get a total of $150 million as break-up fee, with the two banks paying $80 million and Lehman paying the rest.

The agreement, which is expected to close in about 15 days, releases the parties from all claims relating to Archstone, the companies said.

The fight over Archstone comes against the backdrop of a strong rebound in the U.S. apartment market, which has strengthened as Americans, unable to get mortgages, have shifted from home ownership to renting. And as the economy has firmed, rents have surged and occupancy is tight in most areas.

Archstone owns 73,135 apartment units in the United States and Europe, some in buildings in the most desirable urban areas in Washington D.C., New York, Boston and Seattle. Equity Residential owns 121,011 units.

Gleacher & Co. served as Lehman's financial adviser, while Equity Residential was advised by Morgan Stanley & Co.

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