Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc.'s chief executive officer, John Thain, said he expects the third-biggest U.S. securities firm to return to profitability soon.

"We will shortly be back to profitability," Mr. Thain said Monday in an interview on CNBC, according to Bloomberg News.

Merrill's sale last week of $30.6 billion of collateralized debt obligations, the mortgage-linked securities that caused the majority of its $19 billion of net losses during the past year, will allow the firm to "focus on where can we grow," Mr. Thain said.

Dow Jones reported that he also told CNBC his company is "very well capitalized" and does not want to cut the dividend. He said he had not been under any outside pressure to unload the CDOs, the wire service said.

Merrill sold the assets at a drastically reduced price last week to the private-equity firm Lone Star Funds. Mr. Thain said it would be nearly impossible for the CDOs to come back to Merrill.

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