Neutral stance from ABN over rivals

ABN Amro stuck to its neutral stance yesterday on competing takeover bids for the Dutch bank, saying it could not support a break-up under the financially superior Royal Bank of Scotland-led consortium's bid.

RBS, together with Belgian-Dutch financial services group Fortis and Spain's Santander, has offered 71 billion (48bn) for ABN, while rival bidder Barclays has an all-share offer worth about 11bn less.

As at the market close on 14 September, the Barclays offer was at a 9.8 per cent discount to the ABN market price

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ABN told shareholders in a statement that a takeover by Barclays, which does not want to split up ABN, fitted with ABN's strategy of keeping the Dutch bank in one piece.

"ABN Amro boards are not in a position to support the break-up of ABN Amro but acknowledge that the consortium offer is clearly superior for shareholders from a financial point of view, based on current valuation levels," the bank said.

"Therefore, the ABN Amro managing board and the ABN Amro supervisory board refrain from recommending either offer for acceptance to shareholders."

ABN, the biggest bank in the Netherlands, withdrew its formal recommendation for Barclays in July but has said it still prefers the British bank's bid over the consortium's offer.

ABN added it would continue to talk to both Barclays and the consortium and support the takeover of ABN under both offers. The bank said it had continued to compare the bids with a stand-alone scenario and a "managed break-up alternative" but concluded the offers were better than the alternatives, in particular because of execution risks of the alternative scenarios.

The Dutch finance ministry is expected to say today whether it has any objection to the RBS consortium's takeover plan.

The Dutch bank will discuss the offers on Thursday with its shareholders at an extraordinary meeting.