Dutch Finance Minister Rules Out Sale of ASR Nederland as Parliament Backs IPO

By David de Jong and Corina Ruhe | January 28, 2016

Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem ruled out a private sale of ASR Nederland NV, the insurer nationalized during the financial crisis, as parliament signaled its support for an initial public offering of the asset.

Dijsselbloem reiterated his plan to hold the ASR IPO in the first half of 2016, following parliament’s approval. The size of the sale may be larger than the 23 percent stake sold in ABN AMRO Group NV in November, he said.

“We became an owner of this company due to unforeseen circumstances,” Dijsselbloem said in parliament. “It has always been clear that we didn’t acquire the company as an investment.”

Parties forming a majority expressed support for the sale during the debate in The Hague Thursday morning, while no formal vote was taken. ASR, based in Utrecht, has a book value of 3.2 billion euros [$3.4 billion] and said in August that it was ready for a future as a private company. Net profit more than doubled in the first half of the year to 397 million euros [$422.9 million] from 171 million euros [$182.2 million] a year earlier.

The discussion in parliament was the final step before Dijsselbloem can formally start the IPO process.

The government split up Fortis Bank’s Dutch banking and insurance operations to create ABN AMRO and ASR after rescuing the units for 16.8 billion euros [$17.9 billion] during the 2008 crisis. Fortis joined a 72 billion-euro [$76.7 billion] takeover of ABN AMRO Holding NV with Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and Banco Santander SA in 2007. The deal, the largest financial services takeover ever, turned sour during the credit crunch a year later.

Related:

Dutch Government Plans to Float ASR, Former Fortis Insurance Unit

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