BRUSSELS - BNP Paribas will abandon its attempts to buy the assets of Fortis if shareholders of the stricken Dutch-Belgian group reject the latest revised deal this month, BNP's chief executive said.
If it's 'no,' the game will be over for us. On this point, I am ready to bet a box of chocolates, Belgian of course, Baudoin Prot, the CEO of the French bank, was quoted as saying by Belgium's Le Soir newspaper in comments published on Saturday.
After an 11.2 billion euro ($14.87 billion) cash injection failed to calm investors, Fortis was carved up by the Dutch, Belgian and Luxembourg governments in October.
BNP is poised to buy 75 percent of Fortis Bank in Belgium, which was once the banking arm of listed Fortis Holding but is now in state hands.
Fortis shareholders rejected the previous terms of this deal in February. They are set to vote on a revised plan at meetings scheduled for April 28 and 29.
Under the new terms, Fortis Bank would acquire a 25 percent stake in Fortis Insurance Belgium from Fortis Holding for 1.375 billion euros, with the financing guaranteed by BNP.
This new version would allow Fortis Holding to continue as an insurance company and would lower its exposure to toxic assets.
Shareholder agreement to the revised deal became more likely on Friday, when a Belgian court ruled that all Fortis investors -- not just those who held shares when Fortis was broken up in October -- may vote in the meetings at the end of April.
Fortis shares, which had previously been regarded as a solid investment, are now little more than a penny stock.
Prot stressed in the interview that, should the buyout go through, the chairman of the board of Fortis Bank would be a Belgian.
This was not our idea at the start but, after some reflection, we have decided it would be better that way, Le Soir quoted Prot as saying.
He said BNP had yet to decide who it would name to the post.
I would like to name a strong Belgian figure, emanating from the business world, who is well familiar with the needs of the Belgian economy, Le Soir quoted Prot as saying. (Reporting by Anne Jolis, editing by Anthony Barker)