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Tue, May 08, 2007 - Page 10 News List

ABN Amro rejects RBS-led offer for LaSalle Bank unit



ABN Amro Holding NV has rejected a US$24.5 billion offer for its LaSalle Bank unit from a group led by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC (RBS), as the biggest financial industry takeover battle intensifies.

The bid from RBS, Santander Central Hispano SA and Fortis for Chicago-based LaSalle was not "superior" to an earlier US$21 billion offer from Bank of America Corp, ABN Amro said yesterday. The offer was "inter-conditional" on the purchase of ABN Amro for 38.40 euros (US$52.20) a share, the Dutch bank said.

LaSalle is at the center of a battle for control of ABN Amro, the largest Dutch bank, between Barclays PLC and the group led by RBS. The sale of the US bank is also the subject of a court fight.

"It will take until summer before we know who's going to buy ABN Amro," said Gert-Jan Geels, who oversees approximately US$680 million at Eureffect Asset Management. "A long period of uncertainty is never good."

The RBS-led offer comes two weeks after Amsterdam-based ABN Amro agreed to be acquired by Barclays in an all-stock deal valued at 65.3 billion euros, and to sell LaSalle to Bank of America. RBS, Santander and Fortis have said they plan to split apart the 183-year-old company, which has operations in 53 countries.

The RBS-led proposal for LaSalle, submitted on Saturday, was rebuffed on Sunday, the bidding group said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. ABN Amro plans to hold an extraordinary general meeting "to enable shareholders to express their views on the alternatives available to them at that time."

The Dutch bank declined to comment on whether shareholders would be allowed to vote on the RBS proposals.

ABN Amro shares fell 1.6 percent to 36.08 euros at 9:36am in Amsterdam. The stock is up 48 percent this year.

Barclays' efforts to acquire the Dutch lender were dealt a setback on Thursday when the Amsterdam district court's Enterprise Chamber halted ABN Amro's sale of LaSalle to Bank of America because it lacked shareholder approval. Bank of America, the second-largest US bank by assets, countered the following day by asking a judge in a New York federal court to block any sale of LaSalle to other buyers.

"The legal process is far from over," said Antony Broadbent, a London-based analyst at Sanford C Bernstein Ltd.

Under the sale agreement for LaSalle, ABN Amro could accept a higher price than Bank of America's during the two weeks ending yesterday. The US lender would be able to match any offer and would receive US$200 million if its deal collapses.

ABN Amro had sought clarification from the Dutch court on whether the deadline for seeking other bids for LaSalle remains in effect. The Enterprise Chamber declined to provide such guidance, the bank said yesterday.

"In the interest of the shareholders," ABN Amro decided to interpret the judgment to mean the so-called go shop clause could proceed, the Dutch bank said. ABN Amro spokesman Jochem Van de Laarschot said the RBS-led offer was the only other bid for LaSalle aside from Bank of America's offer.

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