Bank of America-Merrill Lynch is cutting around a fifth of its managing directors across Asia, sources said on Monday, in a bid to cut costs as the outlook sours in a once-booming region.

Some 15 of BofA's managing directors in Asia will leave by end-March through early retirement, transfer or the standard pink slip, according to three sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

The bank began its round of investment banking cuts in Asia on Monday, they said.

Headhunters interviewed by Reuters said this was a deeper-than-usual cull of senior bankers, but reflects the broad challenges the investment banking industry faces.

"That sounds like carnage," said Richard Broadhurst, who runs Hong Kong-based Initiative Recruitment.

The move is consistent with what BofA is doing globally as it aims to streamline the corporate and investment banking businesses and reduce costs wherever it can.

The bank kicked off its Asia cost cutting late last year, focusing on its Global Banking and Markets division, laying off bankers in the sales and trading, fixed income and commodities trading desks.

The latest round targets the investment banking business in the region, or mergers and acquisitions, equity and debt capital markets, said the sources, who did not want to be identified as they were not authorised to speak publicly about the matter.

Bank of America declined to comment.

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