Belgium's Fortis Bank sees 2008 losses close to 19 bln euros

23rd January 2009, Comments 0 comments

Embattled Belgian bank warned on Thursday its 2008 accounts would likely show a loss of as much as 19 billion euros.

BRUSSELS - The bank, taken over by the Belgian state, said it lost 14.1 billion euros in the first nine months of 2008 due to its sale of ABN Amro and the break-up of its former Belgian-Dutch parent company.

"Fortis Bank also expects its fourth quarter 2008 results to be impacted by the continuing global crisis for an incremental estimated net loss of between four and five billion euros," it said in a statement.

However, the bank insisted that it was in strong financial shape after injections of public funds at the time the holding company was broken up last year.

"We are turning a very dark page in the history of the bank," Fortis Bank chief executive Filip Dierckx said in a statement.

"Fortis Bank's strengthened financial position -- together with the continued dedication of our staff -- allows us to manage our commercial activities in an unusually difficult environment," he added.

The Fortis holding group was dismantled in October, with the Dutch state taking over its Dutch banking and insurance assets, and the Belgian government taking over its Belgian banking business.

BNP Paribas then agreed to buy 75 percent of the Belgian banking business of Fortis from the state and the Belgian insurance operations from the parent company.

However, the takeover has been suspended after a Brussels court ruled in December that minority shareholders had to be consulted first.

Fortis Bank is not listed on the stock market and therefore is not required to report its results.

Belgian newspaper Le Soir reported this week that the government was putting pressure on the bank to publish its results in the hope of convincing shareholders to approve the asset sale to BNP Paribas.

Meanwhile, Belgian regional authorities moved on Thursday to bail out embattled bank KBC, providing up to 3.5 billion euros after its shares collapsed in a crisis of investor confidence.

The global financial crisis has caused considerable drama in Belgium and even handed it the unenviable title of being the first country to lose its government due to the turmoil.

The government of ex-prime minister Yves Leterme resigned in December over allegations that an official had sought to influence the court ruling that Fortis was broken up unfairly without consulting minority shareholders.


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