UPDATE 1-Fortis asset sale to BNP cleared with Dutch OK

Wed Apr 29, 2009 1:53pm BST

Quotes

   

* Fortis assets sale to BNP gets 78 pct backing

* Meeting less dramatic than chaotic Ghent meeting

(Adds vote, details)

By Reed Stevenson

UTRECHT, Netherlands, April 29 (Reuters) - Dutch shareholders of Fortis FOR.BR cleared the way for the firm to sell assets to France's BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA), approving the move a day after a stormy meeting of Belgian shareholders did likewise.

Unlike Tuesday's meeting in Ghent, Belgium, no shoes or coins were thrown at the board in Utrecht by shareholders upset at the controversial carve-up of the group. [ID:nLS451962]

Just over three hours into the meeting, 77.65 percent of shares voted in favour of BNP's purchase of a 75 percent stake in Fortis Bank, the Belgian banking business now in state hands. Shareholders in Belgium eventually backed the deal by 73 percent on Tuesday. [ID:nBRU007385]

The second vote confirms the deal for BNP Paribas to take a majority stake in Fortis Bank to make it the euro zone's largest deposit holder through its push into Belgium and Luxembourg.

BNP Paribas will also indirectly buy a 25 percent stake in Fortis Insurance Belgium from Fortis Holding for 1.375 billion euros ($1.8 billion).

BNP Paribas's shares were up 5.9 percent at 38.94 euros at 1200 GMT. Fortis shares were suspended.

Fortis, stretched by its 24 billion euro purchase of the Dutch business of ABN AMRO in 2007, was carved up by Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg in October 2008 after an 11.2 billion-euro cash injection failed to calm investors.

Fortis's Dutch activities, including ABN AMRO, were bought by the Dutch state in the same month for 16.8 billion euros. The Dutch state aims eventually to privatise the combined enterprise.

The protracted saga led to the collapse of the Belgian government in December, a series of legal battles and several heated shareholders meetings, one of which was stalled by a bout of wrestling.

Tuesday's meeting was suspended twice after shareholders vented their anger over the ABN deal's top-of-the-market price just before the market crash, which caused many to lose their life savings.

Shares in Fortis, once considered an essential part of every prudent Belgian investor's portfolio, have fallen to below 2 euros from almost 30 euros before its ill-fated ABN AMRO bid.

(Reporting by Reed Stevenson; editing by John Stonestreet and David Cowell)

($1 = 0.7579 euro)