Belgium to take steps to 'reassure' Fortis clients

16th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

Belgium's finance minister said the government can "completely reassure clients".

BRUSSELS - Belgium's finance minister said the government would take steps to reassure clients of troubled banking group Fortis and hold talks with BNP Paribas after shareholders rejected its breakup.

"We will take measures to completely reassure clients," Finance Minister Didier Reynders said in an interview with the daily Libre Belgique published Saturday.

"Then we will contact the two other partners. One is BNP Paribas, the other is the new board (of directors)," he said.

Reynders did not specify what type of measures the government would take, but he reaffirmed the government's desire to sell parts of the Belgian-Dutch group to the French bank.

While the Belgian government took over Fortis's banking subsidiary, "its vocation is not to stay very long," the finance minister said.

"The ideal situation is to get out of it by recovering its investment and if possible by making a profit," he said.

Fortis shareholders on Thursday rejected Dutch and Belgian moves to nationalise some assets and sell others off to BNP Paribas.

The "no" votes came despite a warning from group chief executive Jan-Michiel Hessels that Fortis was threatened with bankruptcy.

In two votes, the shareholders turned down a decision by the Netherlands to nationalise the group's Dutch assets and narrowly knocked back Belgium's decision to nationalise the Belgian affiliate Fortis Bank.

This also meant a rejection of Belgium's decision to sell on 75 percent of its Fortis assets to BNP Paribas.

The votes were unlikely to have any immediate impact as, unless there is a new agreement between the parties, the shareholders would have to take more legal action to get the breakup move overturned.


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