ABN Amro and ING Groep Were Near Merger in March -- Report

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Includes: ABN, ING
by: Judith Levy

Dutch banking giant ABN Amro -- now the subject of competing bids from Barclays and a Royal Bank of Scotland-led consortium -- nearly merged with ING Groep three months ago, a Dutch daily reported Thursday. ABN 22 June 2007NRC Handelsblad said ING began takeover negotiations with ABN last November but halted them mid-March, when ABN's share price rose above €27. The Dutch Central Bank and European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes had received details about the potential merger and expressed approval. When the talks began, ABN's shares were trading at €23. The shares rose sharply in February, when activist shareholder TCI Fund publicly demanded the bank either split itself up or sell itself. ABN has since accepted an offer from Barclays worth €34.93 per share that is contingent on the sale of ABN's U.S. asset, LaSalle Bank, to Bank of America. The LaSalle sale was frozen by a Dutch court, however, after ABN shareholders claimed it was an attempt to dampen the interest of RBS. The consortium's bid for ABN is worth €38.40 per share. In related news, the consortium said Friday it expects to file all change-of-control and antitrust draft documentation for the bid by next week and should issue the offering document and public SEC filing in July. "What is remarkable," said Gilissen analyst Herman Bots, "is that the consortium...hasn't waited for a Dutch Supreme Court ruling or a deal with Bank of America on LaSalle before proceeding with their offer."

Sources: CNN.com I, II, Forbes, Reuters
Commentary: ABN Mulling RBS Consortium Bid; Supervisory Board Enters Takeover FrayABN Amro Agrees to Sell Itself to Barclays for $91 BillionHedge Fund Threatens Legal Action Unless ABN AMRO Listens to All Offers
Stocks/ETFs to watch: ABN Amro Holding N.V. [ADR] (ABN), ING Groep N.V. [ADR] (NYSE:ING). ETFs: First Trust Morningstar Div Leaders Idx (NYSEARCA:FDL), PowerShares Intl Dividend Achievers (NASDAQ:PID), iShares MSCI Netherlands Index (NYSEARCA:EWN)

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