ABN Amro Fortis merger ‘in danger’

The merger between state-owned ABN Amro and Fortis Nederland is at risk because ABN Amro cannot meet EU demands on divesting some activities, various newspapers report on Friday.

Brussels has ordered the sale of some ABN Amro units because the merged bank would be too dominant in the Dutch market.
But on Thursday finance minister Wouter Bos told MPs Deutsche Bank had broken off the negotiations to buy 15 regional ABN Amro offices and the Hollandsche Bank Unie. Newspapers report both sides are blaming the other. The talks had been ongoing for some time.
According to the Volkskrant, Bos and competition commissioner Neelie Kroes are looking for an alternative. Kroes does not mind what ABN Amro and Fortis sell as long as it reduces their dominant market position, the paper says.
However, her spokesman told the Financieele Dagblad: ‘the integration [of the two banks] cannot take place as long as HBU has not been divested.’ This would indicate Brussels is not prepared to talk about alternatives, the paper said.
The paper says sources at ABN suggest the sale of Fortis’ commercial banking business would be another option.
Bos is also under fire from Kroes for giving a €22bn guarantee to ING to cover its €28bn risky US mortgage portfolio.

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