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The banks have been trying to work with the estate of Lehman Brothers LEHMQ.PK -- Archstone's other co-owner -- on a plan to exit Archstone, but have not been able to agree on a course of action, the source said.
So, the two banks have decided to try to sell their stakes, which total 53 percent of Archstone, the source said.
The source spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter is not public yet.
The Wall Street Journal reported the news earlier on Sunday. The newspaper said the combined value of Barclays' and Bank of America's stake is likely between $2 billion and $3 billion, citing people familiar with Archstone's finances.
Barclays declined to comment. Bank of America, Lehman and Archstone could not immediately be reached for comment.
Archstone is one of the largest owners of U.S. apartments, with many of its holdings in some of the most expensive metropolitan areas, including New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Boston, Southern California and Seattle.
At the end of last year, the Denver-based company owned or had stakes in 436 apartment buildings, or about 78,207 units, in the United States and Europe. (Reporting by Michael Erman; Editing by Vinu Pilakkott)