Share prices fall on LaSalle announcement (UPDATE)

ABN Amro does not need shareholder permission to sell its LaSalle unit to Bank of America, High Court advocate general Vino Timmermans said on Tuesday morning. The advocate general’s conclusions are adopted by the court in around 75% of cases.

The High Court was asked to rule if ABN Amro could sell its LaSalle unit to Bank of America without shareholder approval. The company court put the deal on ice at the beginning of May, saying the transaction had to be seen in the light of the takeover battle for ABN Amro. The advocate general now says that this advice should be torn up – which now clears the way for Barclays to take over ABN Amro.
The shareholders lobby group VEB says the sale was a poison pill to prevent a takeover by a consortium of three banks. One of them, Royal Bank of Scotland, wants to take over Chicago-based LaSalle itself. But ABN Amro prefers the bid from Barclays and says the sale of LaSalle is not connected to this.
The official High Court ruling is expected mid-July.
It is up to Royal Bank of Scotland, Fortis and Santander to decide what to do next in their battle to take over ABN Amro now that the LaSalle sale is likely to be cleared, analysts said.
Both ABN Amro and Fortis’ share price fell in Amsterdam following the announcement. The consortium is not yet defeated but needs to draw up a new strategy, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods told ANP.
Banking unions, meanwhile, urged finance minister Wouter Bos to make a statement. ‘Thousands of workers are still unsure of their future,’ said Jacques Teuwen, chairman of union De Unie. ‘The political silence is symptomatic of the lack of Dutch political will and power to save the bank.’

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