May 15, 2019 / 6:12 PM / 9 days ago

Dutch shareholder group VEB calls on ING to say if interested in Commerzbank

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The organization that defends shareholder interests in the Netherlands on Wednesday called on ING Groep to clarify whether it is interested in acquiring German rival Commerzbank.

FILE PHOTO: Pedestrians walk past the logo of ING bank by the group's main office in Brussels, Belgium, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

Reuters reported on May 14 that Italy’s UniCredit had hired advisers to examine the possibility of a takeover of Commerzbank, while ING had held informal talks with the German lender. ING declined comment.

The VEB said in a letter to the Dutch banking group that “ING cannot delay” disclosure of its intent.

“While ING should not respond to every rumor in the market, in the eyes of the VEB it is in the interest of a honest determination of the market price for ING shares that it give clarity,” the association wrote.

It said that ING’s share price had declined in recent days, likely because of the reports, and noted that UniCredit had made a statement on Tuesday at the request of Italian regulators.

UniCredit said it had not signed any banking mandate related to any potential rumored market operation.

ING spokesman Raymond Vermeulen said on Wednesday evening that similar questions were raised at its annual meeting earlier this month.

“We have nothing to add to the response our board gave there,” he said.

ING’s share price has fallen around 16 percent since late April.

The bank’s chief executive, Ralph Hamers, told shareholders on April 24 that it would consider a cross-border acquisition in select circumstances, including if consolidation were occurring in one of the markets it operates in.

Germany is ING’s second largest market after the Netherlands.

ING is obliged to inform shareholders under Dutch disclosure laws of any concrete step in a takeover process, the association said.

Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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