Belgium sells its 25% stake in Fortis

Belgium has sold its 25% of Fortis Banque’s capital to BNP Paribas. It had retained that stake after the partial purchase of Belgium’s largest bank by the French group in 2009. The total amount for the transaction: 3.25 billion EUR. L’Echo revealed on its website on Wednesday that once the transaction is concluded the French banking group will hold 100% of Belgium’s largest bank’s capital. Belgium will receive a capital gain of approximately 900 million EUR, its contribution having been valued at 2.356 billion EUR by SFPI, the state’s financial arm.

“After the successful  transfer of Royal Park Investment’s structured credit portfolio in May of this year, this transaction marks a new stage in the recovery of Belgium’s investment in Fortis Bank Belgium (…).” “The profits from this transfer will help Belgium achieve its public debt objectives,” according to the joint statement issued at 9 p.m. by the state and BNP Paribas.

The Belgian state wanted to see the transfer concluded as soon as possible, and, if at all feasible, by Friday. Tomorrow, the European Commission will revisit the budgetary health reports of the member states for 2014.

Belgium’s public debt exceeds 100% of GDP – the objective that Belgium set for itself without any economic foundation. In conducting this sale the state will reduce its debt below this symbolic level.

According to our colleagues at L’Echo, the European Commission took part in the discussions between Belgium and BNP Paribas. “The government’s objectives were set when its initial investment was made. The bank kept its promises despite a difficult situation. The moment had come to disengage the Belgian state from BNP Paribas Fortis.

We are confident of the bank’s ability to maintain its role in the Belgian economy,” stated prime minister Elio Di Rupo and finance minister Koen Geens. BNP Paribas Fortis, ordered by its French parent company to reduce costs, will downsize its current 17,000 positions by 10% between now and 2016.

DOMINIQUE BERNS

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