ING In Talks To Buy Fortis

ING is understood to be just two weeks away from sealing a deal with embattled Fortis to buy from it the Dutch banking operations of ABN AMRO.

Both ING and Fortis declined to comment on the situation.

Last year, Fortis bought €24bn worth of ABN AMRO assets – including its Dutch retail and commercial banking, global private banking and asset management operations – that made it the largest bancassurance business in the Benelux region.

“Integrating ABN AMRO was a step too far for this company to do,” acting Fortis CEO Filip Dierckx admitted on a conference call with journalists and investors on Monday.

Fortis Bank chairman, Dierckx, replaced Herman Verwilst last Friday evening as chief executive officer of the bank, whilst Maurice Lippens, the chairman of Fortis’s board of directors, has quit following the €11.2bn bail-out of the bank over the weekend by the Belgian, Dutch and Luxembourg governments.

They are taking a 49% stake in each of Fortis’s subsidiaries in their respective countries, after emergency talks with European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet on Sunday.

The European Commission is now examining whether the tri-government rescue of Fortis has breached EU state-aid rules.

Meanwhile, on the back of Fortis’s rescue, Franco-Belgian bank Dexia saw its shares plunge on Monday after some analysts said that Dexia would have to strengthen its finances with a capital increase.

By 12:52 GMT, Dexia’s shares were down 28.16% at €7.19.

The share price crash led to Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme saying on Belgian television: “Bearing in mind the specific circumstances of the company Dexia, which is different from Fortis, we will fulfill our responsibilities.”

Dexia’s board is holding another emergency conference call this evening after it held one on Sunday to specifically discuss the implications of Fortis’s effective nationalisation.

“With the acceleration of the financial crisis over the past two weeks, Dexia is following the situation closely,” a spokesperson told Reuters.

He added: “The liquidity situation at Dexia is very healthy and the recent events around Fortis have no impact at all.”

Source: Thomson Merger News