Brussels gives green light to Fortis unit sale

ABN Amro and Fortis can ‘ in theory’ decide to sell a Fortis unit to meet Brussels objections to their planned merger, the Telegraaf reports on Thursday.

Competition commissioner Neelie Kroes had ordered the sale of ABN Amro banking unit HBU and several other operations before she would approve the creation of a single bank. But that deal fell through last week, and finance minister Wouter Bos has been given two weeks to come up with an alternative.
The sale of a Fortis division would need to be examined by Brussels on the basis of competition rules, Kroes’ spokesman told the paper.
The finance ministry wants to merge ABN Amro and Fortis into a single operation. But Brussels has objected, saying the combined financial services group would be too dominant in the domestic market. The Dutch operations of both banks were nationalised last year.
News agency Reuters said on Wednesday sources suggest Fortis’ commercial banking arm may now be up for sale. The division targets companies with revenues of between €2.5m and €250m a year through a network of 23 business centres and four regional offices.

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