The collapse of the Dutch government is unlikely to derail plans for a partial sale of the state’s stake in ABN Amro Bank NV, according to the lender’s head of finance.
(Bloomberg) — The collapse of the Dutch government is unlikely to derail plans for a partial sale of the state’s stake in ABN Amro Bank NV, according to the lender’s head of finance.
Dutch state-holding company NLFI said in February it was planning to reduce its stake in ABN Amro to under 50% through a sale of depositary receipts, ending a five-year hiatus in the disposal of the lender’s shares.
NLFI held a 56.3% stake at the time of the publication of ABN Amro’s 2022 annual report in March.
“It’s my full expectation that the current plan is just continuing,” ABN Amro’s Chief Financial Officer Ferdinand Vaandrager said in an interview. “To my knowledge, they are in execution of that program.”
The February announcement came about a year after Dutch Finance Minister Sigrid Kaag asked NLFI to reconsider conditions under which the holding can be reduced. The last sale took place in September 2017, when the government sold a 7% stake for about €1.5 billion ($1.6 billion).
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s coalition government abruptly collapsed last month, pausing policy-making and decisions ahead of an election scheduled for November.
“I cannot say what the new government will look like, but the decision has been taken and they are in execution,” Vaandrager said. “NLFI acts independently from the Ministry of Finance.”
The Dutch government bailed out ABN Amro during the 2008 financial crisis with a €22 billion rescue, transforming it from one of the world’s biggest banks to a consumer-focused lender for the domestic market. ABN Amro returned as a publicly traded company in November 2015, after the government sold a 23% stake in an initial offering.
While BNP Paribas SA and other lenders have previously expressed interest in a potential purchase of ABN Amro, talks with the government haven’t progressed meaningfully, Bloomberg reported in June last year, citing people familiar with the matter.
Major consolidation in European banking has stalled since the financial crisis despite the widely held view that greater scale would make struggling lenders more competitive. Rising rates that are lifting profit may now boost the prospects for dealmaking.
“There will always be speculations, about ABN and other banks,” Vaandrager said about a possible consolidation of banks involving the Dutch lender. “But it’s absolutely not a top-of-mind topic for us.”
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