Last hurdle falls in RBS bid for ABN

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The Independent Online

The Royal Bank of Scotland-led consortium of banks yesterday overcame the final major regulatory hurdle in its battle to buy ABN Amro when its Belgian member won European Union approval after making concessions to combat competition concerns.

The European Commission approved proposals by Fortis, Belgium's biggest bank, to sell some ABN Amro assets in the Netherlands. RBS and Santander, the Spanish member of the three-bank group, had already gained approval for their acquisitions.

The consortium has been battling Barclays to buy the Dutch bank since March. Its €71bn (£41bn) largely cash bid is about €10bn higher than Barclays' cash-based offer, which has slumped in recent months as banks' valuations were hit by the credit crunch. Barclays' bid ends today, with the consortium's following tomorrow. Shareholders then have five days to make their decision, with the RBS group certain to win because of its higher value.

Fortis is buying ABN Amro's Dutch retail and commercial banking businesses plus its asset management and private banking divisions. RBS, headed by Sir Fred Goodwin, will get ABN's wholesale banking business and Asian operations, while Santander will pick up the Dutch lender's highly prized Latin American network.

Fortis said it welcomed the European Commission's decision and added that the concessions would not have a big impact on its plans for ABN's business.

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