Barclays won shareholder support today for its â‚¬62 billion (Â£42 billion) bid to acquire ABN Amro, the Dutch bank, but said that it was not committed to a deal at any price.
The bank said that 90 percent of the votes cast at its extraordinary general meeting were in favor of the bid.
Barclays's 32.30 euros-a-share bid, which is 37 percent in cash, has been dragged down by a 16 percent drop of in its own stock price amid concern about tightening credit and collapse of U.S. subprime home loans.
John Varley, the chief executive of Barclays, said that a deal would create continuing growth for the bank, but warned the deal needed to be in the best interest of the bank.
â€œWe have been consistent in promising our shareholders that we will not lose sight of economic reality in our pursuit of the merger objective, he said, addressing shareholders before the key vote. The bank was prepared to walk away if we canâ€™t conclude the transaction on the right terms.
The British bank has to compete with a consortium led by the Royal Bank of Scotland, which offered â‚¬71 billion for ABN Amro. Varley noted that the rival bid faced its own uncertainties.
The current value of ABN Amro shares stands at an 8 per cent discount to the consortium offer. So the stock market, which is seldom wrong about these things, is indicating at the moment that the outcome is far from certain.
ABN Amroâ€™s management initially backed the Barclays offer, but since then has adopted a neutral stance on the bids. Shareholders in the Dutch group will meet on Thursday to discuss the two rival offers.