ABN Amro, which is at the centre of a €65bn takeover battle, is expected to give the go-ahead for talks with a consortium consisting of Fortis, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Santander.
British newspaper The Times reports on Tuesday that the permission for talks between the advisers from both sides would be ‘a small but significant green light’ to this rival group, which said on Friday it wanted to look at ABN Amro’s books.
ABN Amro is currently in exclusive talks with Barclays, but these are due to expire on Wednesday, The Times points out. ABN Amro will then be free to negotiate with other potential bidders. Hedge fund TCI, which wants ABN Amro to split up and sell off some of its operations, has threatened legal action unless the Dutch bank talks to other bidders.
The Fortis bid would involve dividing ABN Amro up between the three consortium partners.
Dutch trade unions say that a merger between ABN Amro’s Dutch operations and Fortis would lead to 1,000 job losses as duplicate branches are shut down. They back a merger with Barclays.
Fortis has 11,000 workers and 170 branches in the Netherlands, making it the fourth biggest bank in the country. ABN Amro has a Dutch workforce of 26,000.
A merger of ABN Amro’s Dutch activities with Fortis would also run into difficulty with the competition authorities as it would mean the new combine would control 40% of the small business market.
Meanwhile ABN Amro’s share price has risen to €35.58, which is above the limit analysts predict Barclays is prepared to pay. The Fortis consortium is thought to be willing to pay up to €40 a share.
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