NEW YORK, NY -- (MARKET WIRE) -- January 16, 2007 -- Bear Stearns Merchant Banking ("BSMB"), a leading private equity firm focusing on middle-market investments, today announced it has acquired, through a newly formed entity called Caribbean Financial Group ("CFG"), certain direct and indirect Latin American consumer finance subsidiaries of Wells Fargo & Company. The acquired entities represent regional consumer finance companies that offer unsecured personal loans, sales finance and related credit insurance products to individuals in Panama, Aruba, the Netherlands Antilles, Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico.

Prior to the acquisition, the business of the acquired entities was managed by Wells Fargo Financial, a unit of Wells Fargo & Company. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Wells Fargo Financial continues to have a presence in Puerto Rico through Reliable Financial Services, an automobile financing business.

This acquisition represents the first investment for BSMB's third private equity fund, Bear Stearns Merchant Banking Partners III, L.P., comprising approximately $2.7 billion of committed capital. BSMB announced the final closing of this investment vehicle in August 2006.

"The management team has done an outstanding job of building the business into a leading consumer finance company in each of its regional markets. We are excited to partner with management to build on this strong foundation and further enhance growth and profitability," said Robert Juneja, Managing Director of BSMB. "This acquisition demonstrates BSMB's long-term commitment to pursue investment opportunities in the financial services sector, particularly in consumer finance."

Dan Porter, a Senior Advisor to BSMB on financial services investments, will assume the role of Executive Chairman and will be actively involved in providing strategic guidance and oversight to CFG.

Oriol Segarra, President of the Wells Fargo Financial Latin American Consumer Group, will continue to lead the company as President & Chief Executive Officer of CFG. "All of our team members are excited about the growth possibilities that this transaction provides. BSMB has distinguished itself in providing not only financial support, but also business expertise to senior management teams in its quest to capitalize on growth opportunities," said Mr. Segarra.

"The sale of Wells Fargo Financial's remaining consumer lending operations in Latin America will enable us to focus our resources on our core businesses in the United States and Canada, where we have greater opportunities to satisfy all of our customers' financial needs and help them succeed financially," said Tom Shippee, President and Chief Executive Officer of Wells Fargo Financial.

About BSMB:

BSMB, the private equity affiliate of The Bear Stearns Companies Inc. (NYSE: BSC), invests private equity capital in compelling leveraged buyouts, recapitalizations and growth capital opportunities alongside superior management teams. BSMB focuses on making control or entrepreneur-driven investments, principally in middle-market retail, financial services and consumer products companies. Since its formation in 1997, BSMB has been an investor in over 50 portfolio companies. BSMB manages nearly $5 billion of private equity capital, including its new $2.7 billion institutional fund and capital dedicated to its affiliate, Bear Growth Capital Partners. Investments by BSMB have included: ACA Capital Holdings (NYSE: ACA), Balducci's, CamelBak Products, Cavalry Investments, Churchill Financial Holdings, Dairyland, Everything But Water, Harlem Furniture, Multi Packaging Solutions, New York & Company (NYSE: NWY), Reddy Ice (NYSE: FRZ), Seven For All Mankind, Stuart Weitzman, Transamerican Auto Parts Company and The Vitamin Shoppe. More information about BSMB can be found at

About Wells Fargo:

Wells Fargo Financial, a unit of Wells Fargo & Company, provides real estate-secured lending, automobile financing, consumer and private-label credit cards and commercial services to consumers and businesses. The company has $67 billion in assets, approximately 21,000 team members and operates in 48 states across the U.S., the 10 provinces of Canada, Puerto Rico and the Pacific Rim. It is headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa. More information about Wells Fargo Financial is available at

Wells Fargo & Company is a diversified financial services company with $483 billion in assets, providing banking, insurance, investments, mortgage and consumer finance to more than 23 million customers from more than 6,200 stores and the internet ( across North America and internationally. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. has the highest possible credit rating, "Aaa," from Moody's Investors Service and the highest credit rating given to a U.S. bank, "AA+," from Standard & Poor's Ratings Services.

Contact Information: Contact: For BSMB: Melissa Daly or Elisa Marks Brunswick Group (212) 333-3810 For Wells Fargo: MEDIA Steve Carlson (515) 557-6144 (515) 313-1018 (cellular) INVESTORS Bob Strickland (415) 396-0523