The chief executive of nationalized Dutch bank ABN AMRO said it was unlikely the state would recover the full 30 billion euros ($36.8 billion) it has spent buying and supporting the bank, sparking calls for new parliamentary hearings into the aid.
In an interview late on Friday with business news radio station BNR, Gerrit Zalm called the goal of the state getting all its money back difficult to attain. Zalm was finance minister for nearly 12 years.
Dutch media agency ANP-Reuters reported that the leader of the centrist D66, Alexander Pechtold, demanded an explanation from Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager regarding Zalm's comments. Business newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad said on Saturday the Labour Party wants Zalm to testify in parliament.
When the bank was nationalized in November 2008, Zalm's successor as finance minister, Wouter Bos, said the state would own the bank for the shortest time possible before selling it at a profit to the taxpayer.
But the Finance Ministry said Saturday that making a profit was never the point.
It is too early to determine whether we will get all the money back that we put in the bank, the ministry said in a statement. ABN is now building a new bank. And when the time is right it shall be sold.
The government nationalized ABN AMRO Bank and Fortis Bank Nederland in October 2008 at the height of the credit crisis and subsequently gave them huge capital infusions to stay afloat.
The state's plan is to merge them under the ABN AMRO brand and privatize the group in 2013 or 2014. The combined entity will be the Netherlands' largest wealth manager, a top-two commercial bank and the third-largest retail savings bank.
At the end of 2009, the group had a book value on the state's balance sheet of 9.29 billion euros, although the government has said the book value now does not reflect what the group may ultimately be worth.
(Reporting by Ben Berkowitz; Editing by Paul Tait and Jason Webb)