Fortis shareholders' vote has no effect on Dutch nationalisation

12th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

A balance appears to have been struck between the nationalisation of Fortis and shareholder interests.

THE HAGUE—A rejection by shareholders of Dutch-Belgian bank Fortis of the nationalisation of its Dutch assets will not affect the transaction's validity, the Dutch finance ministry said Wednesday.

"The decision of the general assembly of shareholders (in Brussels) has no bearing on the validity" of the Dutch government's 16.8-billion-euro (22-billion-dollar) purchase, ministry spokesman Lies Weitenberg told AFP.

"The transaction is valid and unassailable," she said, adding the Dutch government has become the "definitive owner of the Dutch branch of Fortis."

Weitenberg said that at the time of the nationalisation, "there was an enormous risk that Fortis would go bankrupt and that shareholders would lose everything."

But Euroshareholders, a group claiming to represent some 15,000 Fortis investors, said it was elated at the Wednesday rejection.

It claims the group's dismantlement and partial nationalisation had caused a plummet in share values.

"After today's vote, we have a new chance to restore Fortis to a viable financial concern, notwithstanding the serious problems that have to be overcome to get the Fortis ship back in safe waters," according to an official statement.

Shareholders on Wednesday rejected a Dutch and Belgian salvage plan that would nationalise parts of the ailing bank and sell other assets off to French bank BNP Paribas.

Another extraordinary general meeting of shareholders is to be held in Utrecht in the Netherlands on Friday, but unlike their Belgian counterparts, Dutch shareholders will not have the right to vote on the validity of the dismantlement transactions.

The three transactions, agreed to last October without shareholder input, came at the height of the financial crisis.


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