ABN Amro awaits court ruling over its future

03-05-2007

ABN Amro awaits court ruling over its future
The battle to take control of Netherlands-based bank ABN Amro is expected to heat up further today, with a Dutch court due to rule on whether the financial group can sell its US banking business.

Analysts believe that the ruling over the sale of its subsidiary LaSalle could determine the outcome of the ongoing takeover war for the bank, which earlier this year came under pressure from investors to either sell or break itself up in the wake of several years of disappointing results.

The Bank of America is set to buy LaSalle as part of ABN's takeover agreement with the UK's Barclays Bank, which has offered to assume control of its Dutch counterpart for £45 billion.

However rival suitors and an ABN shareholder group are against the disposal, which is due to be completed on Sunday unless an alternative bid is put forward.

Dutch shareholder group VEB claims the LaSalle deal is designed to block other parties from making a bid for ABN. A consortium of three banks headed by the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has also expressed its intention of putting forward an offer for the group on the condition that the US unit is not sold.

RBS, along with Spain's Santander and the Belgian-Dutch bank Fortis, is expected to make an unsolicited offer for ABN if Amsterdam's commercial court rules today that the LaSalle sale cannot go ahead.

Commentators say such a move would place ABN under the potential threat of legal action from Barclays, which could sue the Dutch group if it subsequently reneges on its takeover agreement with the British bank.

ABN could also face action from the Bank of America in the LaSalle deal does not come to fruition, while reports suggest that the RBS-led consortium could launch a lawsuit to try and block the sell-off if the Dutch court does ratify the sale.

"The accelerated side deal to sell LaSalle has created a non-comparable situation for shareholders, may deter the highest offer and opens a legal minefield," said Keefe, Bruyette & Woods analyst Jean-Pierre Lambert in a note.



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