GLOBAL – Merrill Lynch has responded to press reports that it is planning to sell its Merrill Lynch Investment Managers arm with a statement that it sees asset management is an important business.

The firm said: “From time to time we review strategic plans for each of our various businesses and review the options available to us to achieve our growth objectives.

“It is our firm policy not to make any statements in regard to these processes unless and until we make a definitive decision to depart from current strategies.

“With regard to Merrill Lynch Investment Managers, we will reiterate what we have said for a long time: asset management is an important business for Merrill Lynch and will continue to be.”

The statement did not deny reports that it was seeking a partial sale of MLIM to, possibly, US asset manager Legg Mason.

Last week the New York Times quoted unnamed banking sources as saying it is “exploring the possibility” of selling a large stake in its investment management business.

Merrill’s investment management arm has 513 billion dollars in assets under management, with seven billion dollars in net inflows in the first quarter. In the first quarter, Merrill's asset management division earned 111 million dollars up from 39 million dollars a year before.