PE Firms Bid for Ex-Fortis Tax Advisory Unit

LONDON/AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – At least four private equity firms are bidding for Intertrust, the former Fortis tax-advisory business, three people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

Intertrust was acquired by the Dutch government when it nationalised the local operations of Fortis FORTH.UL in October.

General Atlantic, CVC Capital Partners, Permira PERM.UL and Cinven have made first-round bids, the people said. Second-round bids are due in early July, they said.

All of the private equity firms declined to comment.

The Financial Times said offers for Intertrust were being pitched near to an asking price of 350 million euros ($488.5 million). Two of the people described the figure as “credible”.

A spokeswoman for Fortis Bank Nederland and Intertrust declined comment. A spokeswoman for the Dutch Finance Ministry said it had no say in any potential sale of Intertrust and that any deal would be up to Fortis Bank Nederland.

Any buyer for Intertrust may have to contend with the increasingly sticky issue of how to provide tax strategies amid the global crackdown on tax evasion.

“This is the issue for buyers,” a banking source said.

Switzerland is in the midst of trying to strike 12 new bilateral tax deals by the end of this year to get itself removed from an OECD “grey list” of states that need to improve tax cooperation and avoid possible G20 sanctions. [ID:nLF492254]

The push comes as the United States pursues a suit against Swiss bank UBS (UBSN.VX) for the names of thousands of American clients who allegedly stashed money in secret accounts, violating tax laws.

Fortis was carved up between the Netherlands and Belgium after a cash injection failed to calm jittery investors. The Dutch state has said it plans to combine the part of the business it took over with ABN AMRO, which Fortis bought as part of a consortium in 2007.

The new entity, to be called ABN AMRO Bank NV, is earmarked for privatisation in 2011. ($1=.7165 Euro)

By Victoria Howley and Ben Berkowitz

(Additional reporting by Simon Meads; editing by Rupert Winchester)