Fortis provided a cracking example of how to shoot yourself in the foot last week when it held a meeting in an effort to smooth shareholders’ ruffled feathers.
The financial services group’s share price has gone down 70% this year and shareholders are not amused.
So new CEO Maurice Lippens used the gathering to explain that Fortis had begged EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes not to force it to sell off a number of ABN Amro units – which led to a large hole in its balance sheet. ‘We tried everything… but it was no,’ Lippens was quoted as saying.
Kroes is not regarded as one of the most powerful businesswomen in the world for nothing and made short shrift of Lippen’s story.
‘Fortis had never made a formal request for a delay. Lippens did not get down on his knees and beg me… we have not even spoken to him in nine months’, Kroes snapped back.
Fortis has now done a quick back-track. Lippens was simply speaking metaphorically, a spokeswoman was forced to explain.
Lippens got the job a couple of months ago when Jean Paul Votron resigned for saying the bank was in fine financial shape and then announcing an €8bn programme to strengthen its balance sheet.
Surely the new boss is not getting it wrong as well? Metaphorically speaking of course.
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