At a tumultuous annual meeting of ABN Amro shareholders yesterday in the Hague, at which the head of Dutch investment group VEB charged the stage and was forcibly removed by guards, shareholders confirmed they will sue to obstruct the sale of LaSalle Bank to Bank of America, a deal ABN agreed as part of a $91 billion takeover by Barclays. VEB, together with activist investor TCI Fund, claims the $21 billion sale of LaSalle to BoA -- which was concluded without consulting ABN shareholders -- will deter rival bidders for ABN. ABN CEO Rijkman Groenink contends a shareholder vote was not required, as the unit accounts for less than 30% of the bank's total assets. VEB Chairman Peter Paul de Vries calls Groenink's move a "sleazy trick." TCI Fund put forward a motion at the meeting in favor of a sale or breakup of ABN -- implicitly a motion in support of the $98.5 billion counterbid by a three-bank consortium led by Royal Bank of Scotland -- and 68% of shareholders present voted in favor. VEB has announced it is going to Commercial Court for an injunction to "freeze...the sale of LaSalle." Separately, the Royal Bank of Scotland consortium said Friday morning it plans to follow through with its hostile €98.5 billion bid for ABN Amro in a move aimed at bettering Barclays' friendly offer. "The banks continue to believe that their proposals offer materially higher value for ABN Amro's shareholders and benefits to customers and employees compared with the recommended offer from Barclays," they said in a joint statement. Their proposal has the LaSalle unit remaining within the ABN Amro group. The consortium is expected to break up ABN if it wins.
Sources: MSNBC, Reuters, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal
Commentary: ABN Amro Now Seeking Rival Bids for LaSalle • ABN Amro Takeover: Rival Trio Tops Barclays with $98.5 Billion Bid • ABN-Barclays Merger: Rival Bidders and Investors Query LaSalle Sale
Stocks/ETFs to watch: ABN Amro Holding N.V. (ABN), Barclays PLC (BCS), Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc [ADR] (RBSPY), Fortis NV [ADR] (FORSY), Bank of America Corp. (BAC). Competitors: HSBC Holdings plc ADR (HBC), Deutsche Bank AG (DB), UBS AG (UBS). ETFs: First Trust Morningstar Div Leaders Idx (FDL), PowerShares Intl Dividend Achievers (PID), iShares MSCI Netherlands Index (EWN)
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