ING takes control of German bank

CROSS-BORDER banking consolidation in Europe took a step forward yesterday when ING, the Dutch banking and insurance giant, announced an agreed 2.3bn euro bid for the 58 per cent of Germany's BHF Bank it does not already own.

The deal is the biggest-ever foreign takeover of a German bank. ING is to pay 45 euro per share, giving shareholders a premium of nearly 32 per cent to the closing share price on Thursday night.

ING, which bought Barings after its crash more than five years ago, is seeking to build a pan-European position in asset management and corporate finance, particularly in the small and medium-sized business sector, where it is believed the adoption of the euro will force more cross-border merger activity. ING has been stalking Credit Commercial de France, which owns the city merchant bank Charterhouse. It has built an 18 per cent stake in the French bank, but its plan to bid for control has come up against resistance from the French government.

Analysts expressed surprise at ING's latest move. They said that ING had played down the possibility of a full bid for BHF when it bought the original 34.5 per cent stake in September. ING said yesterday it will finance the bid from its own resources.

Analysts said BHF, which is relatively small compared with larger rivals in Germany such as Deutscher or Commerz Bank, was unlikely to satisfy ING's ambitions for that country.