Trading in Fortis halted after court ruling

Trading in the rump financial services group Fortis remains suspended in Amsterdam and Brussels on Monday following Friday’s surprise court ruling which appeared to halt the break-up of the Dutch Belgian company.

Trading will be suspended until ‘Fortis publishes a statement outlining the financial consquences of the court decision,’ the Belgian stock exchange said in a statement.
The Brussels appeal court on Friday ruled that Fortis must seek shareholder approval for the sale of assets to the Dutch and Belgian governments, and BNP Paribas for a total €27bn.
The court decision freezes all decisions taken by Fortis’ board in early October when Fortis Nederland was nationalised by the Dutch government and most of the Belgian assets were sold to BNP. The sales, in early October, left shareholders with near worthless stakes.
The Dutch and Belgian governments said their intervention was necessary to rescue the bank, which was in danger of collapsing.
The court has also set up a panel of five experts who will prepare for a shareholders meeting by February 12.
Dutch position
As the Belgian government decides what action to take, a spokesman for Dutch finance minister Wouter Bos said that the minister believed the Belgian court ruling had no consquences for the Dutch position.
‘The deal has been done. If Fortis shareholders don’t agree, that is between Fortis and its shareholders. We are not involved,’ the spokesman said.
However, Mischael Modrikamen, the lawyer representing some 2,000 small Fortis shareholders says in Monday’s Financieele Dagblad that the Dutch position was affected.
‘The Netherlands thinks the purchase of the Dutch Fortis operations is a given fact but that is not the situation,’ Modrikamen was quoted as saying. ‘A Belgian court can ensure that the case is looked at again.’
The paper says that lawyers believe the Dutch takeover of Fortis Nederland is irreversible because the shares have been handed over and the price paid. But in Belgium the situation is more complicated because the shares have not yet changed hands, the paper says.

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