Dutch court puts obstacle in way of Barclays/ABN deal

| May 4, 2007 | 0 Comments
Dutch court puts obstacle in way of Barclays/ABN deal

In a move that puts Barclays Bank’s (LSE: BARC; NYSE: BCS; TYO: 8642) agreement to buy ABN Amro (Euronext: AAB; NYSE: ABN) in question, a Dutch court has blocked ABN’s sale of its US unit, La Salle, to Bank of America (NYSE: BAC; TYO: 8648). The sale was part of the agreement between Barclays and ABN.

The court’s decision puts a possible higher bid by a consortium including Royal Bank of Scotland (LSE: RBS; NYSE: RBS PRM), Santander (LSE: BNC; NYSE: STD), and Fortis (Euronext AMS: FORA; Euronext BRU: FORB) in a more favorable position, according to some analysts. That group, as well as a group of ABN shareholders, don’t want the US unit sold. Both the shareholders and the consortium have plans to break up ABN after a sale, while the Barclays deal aims to preserve the larger bank, absent the US unit, that would be created by the merger.

The legal action that led to the court’s decision was launched by the group of smaller ABN shareholders, who argued that the decision to sell La Salle was taken without shareholder approval and was made in order to block alternate bids for the Dutch bank. The court, in Amsterdam, ruled that ABN must get shareholder approval to sell the US unit. The decision, however, has created the possibility of further legal action, this time by Bank of America, which said it will do whatever is necessary to protect its purchase of La Salle. Some reports say that BofA could be entitled to up to $200 billion in damages if the deal is blocked.

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