ABN Amro activates on the stock market after rumors of interest from BNP Paribas

ABN Amro’s share price jumped nearly 17% on Friday amid rumors that BNP Paribas was lending a stake in the Dutch bank, which has been controlled by the Netherlands since 2008. Shares were still up 8.7% at the close, with BNP Paribas gaining more modestly. , by 0.9%.

According to Bloomberg, a French banking group has expressed interest in a possible takeover of the Dutch bank. The agency still maintains that a group led by Jean-Laurent Bonnafé should have contacted the Dutch government and discussed such a deal. Reuters is of the same interest. According to Bloomberg, the Dutch government, which has already sold several blocks of securities to investment funds in recent years, does not seem interested at this stage, and negotiations have not been substantive. BNP Paribas was contacted and declined to comment.

One thing is certain: the Treasury Department has indicated that it has sought advice on a possible sale of ABN Amro’s assets. The rest of the story is not so clear. If there could be any ambiguity, it could be caused by a meeting that was to take place a few weeks ago, in the more general framework of offering advice from BNP Paribas to the Dutch authorities to help them sell on the stock market. of their 56% stake in ABN. A priori, there was no discussion or consideration to acquire ABN.

Presence throughout the Benelux

At first glance, the scenario of a merger between BNP Paribas and ABN Amro may seem attractive: the leading bank in the eurozone is selling its retail network in the US (Bank of the West) for more than 16 billion euros. dollars. Therefore, he has plenty to afford ABN, which has a market capitalization of just over 10 billion euros. In this way, the French establishment will complete its European system by controlling a retail bank based in a wealthy and stable country.

No ready-made banking network

But, at the risk of disappointing ABN Amro’s investors, the a contrario arguments are also very strong, since such an acquisition does not fit in with the French group’s strategy. Recently, BNP Paribas has shown little interest in outward growth in retail banking. The acquisition at the end of 2020 of the Belgian postal bank (bpost) is an exception, but further bolsters BNP Paribas’ weight in Belgium, a market it heavily dominates.

First of all, the group has shown in recent years that it prefers to get its hands on a model it has not yet fully mastered (Floa, the split-payments specialist) or complete an already existing industrial platform, especially in banking. (primary brokerage, etc.). “The acquisition of ABN Amro is not part of its strategy at this time,” the source abounds.

If the strategy of the group headed by Jean-Laurent Bonnafé does not provide for such a move, the group has nonetheless been able to prove itself in the past, in particular with the purchase of Fortis in Belgium and Luxembourg.

Difficult timing

The motivation of the Dutch government is also yet to be assessed. “In the fourteen years that they have controlled ABN, the Netherlands has become accustomed to having a kind of postal bank,” adds a good connoisseur of the Dutch banking group. In his view, over the past two years, new bank compliance scandals have further reinforced the idea that there was no urgency to fully privatize the bank.

More broadly, the timing will not necessarily be ideal for a deal due to economic and geopolitical uncertainties.