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Tue, Feb 10, 2009 - Page 10 News List

China’s Ping An to vote against BNP takeover of Fortis

AFP , BRUSSELS

Fortis’ largest shareholder, China’s Ping An Insurance (平安保險), said on Sunday it would vote against a revised bid by France’s BNP Paribas to take over the collapsed Belgian bank.

Ping An “intends to vote against the sale of Fortis at Fortis’ General Assembly in Brussels” tomorrow, said the company which holds a 5 percent stake in Fortis.

“Since September 2008, the decisions to sell assets were driven by the Belgian government and have not only destroyed Fortis’ value, but have also severely impaired Fortis shareholders’ interests as a whole,” the company said in a statement. “Such transactions breached the governance principles of Fortis and, as such, Ping An of China disagrees with the original transactions.”

Lawyers for small shareholders, who together retain a 10 percent stake in Fortis, have also threatened to vote against the sale of the bank’s Belgian assets to BNP and the nationalization of Fortis’ insurance business in the Netherlands.

BNP signaled on Saturday that it could abandon its bid for Fortis if shareholders failed to agree to a recently revised takeover deal next week and the Ping An vote may prove decisive.

Shareholders will vote tomorrow on three operations: The Dutch government’s nationalization of Fortis’ activities in the Netherlands; Belgium’s nationalization of the country’s Fortis Bank; and an agreement in which BNP would buy 75 percent of Fortis Bank.

But Ping An said other possibilities should be examined.

“Ping An believes that other options should have been, and still can be, explored in order to sustain the operation of the business and optimize value for shareholders,” the company said.

The collapse of Fortis caused considerable drama in Belgium and handed it the unenviable title of being the first country where a government fell because of the financial turmoil.

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