Investors’ verdict on Fortis nationalisation awaited

September 29th, 2008 - 7:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Amsterdam/Brussels, Sep 29 (DPA) The shares of Fortis dived to a low of 3.99 euros before recovering at 4.70 euros ($6.87) by 11.00 a.m. (900 GMT) Monday as analysts waited market reaction to the partial nationalisation of the Dutch-Belgian insurance and banking giant.Late Sunday night the governments of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg announced they had each purchased 49 percent of Fortis’s businesses in their respective countries, supplying the bank a total of 11.2 billion euros.

The Dutch government will take over 49 percent of the company in the Netherlands, for which it will pay some four billion euros. In a cost cutting move, Fortis also plans to sell the consumer banking unit of its recent acquisition, Amsterdam-based ABN Amro.

The Belgians will take over 49 percent of Fortis located within its borders, paying some 4.7 billion euros, while Luxembourg will take over 49 percent located on its territory, in exchange for a loan of 2.5 billion euros.

The bailout provides the bank with the funding it has desperately needed since its joint-takeover along with the Royal Bank of Scotland and Spain’s Banco Santander of ABN Amro in October 2007.

In June, Fortis publicly announced its need for substantial extra funding. Its share value has been dropping dramatically ever since, reaching a low of 5.18 euros per share at close of business last Friday after highs above 30 euros in early 2007.

Under the agreement reached, Fortis chairman Maurice Lippens will step down. Shareholders have requested Lippens’ departure since the bank first announced its financial woes.

Fortis paid more than 24 billion euros in October 2007 for its share of Dutch ABN Amro, which had been operating as autonomously until late 2008.

Dutch Finance Minister Wouter Bos said Fortis remained a credible bank, but that it had become “very vulnerable”.

“We could also not have intervened, but the question was if Fortis would have survived Monday morning,” he said, adding that governments were “obligated to keep a bank like Fortis going in difficult times like these”.

The Benelux governments will sell their entire stake in Fortis after confidence in the banking system had been regained, officials said.

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