Barclays gets Dutch approval to buy ABN

AMSTERDAM Mon Aug 13, 2007 1:39pm EDT

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - British bank Barclays received Dutch regulatory approval to buy rival ABN AMRO, it said on Monday, as ABN's share price showed little signs of recovery after Friday's beating.

Barclays is offering about 64 billion euros ($87.7 billion) for the Netherlands' biggest bank, while Royal Bank of Scotland , together with Belgian-Dutch Fortis and Spain's Santander, has made a mostly cash 71 billion euros bid for ABN.

Barclays said it had received a "declaration of no objection" from the Dutch Finance Ministry, in conjunction with the country's central bank.

A Finance Ministry spokesman said a decision on the consortium's plans will take more time as the group made its request later than Barclays did.

The RBS-led consortium expects a decision from the Dutch Finance Ministry by mid-September.

Shares in ABN AMRO rebounded 1.9 percent to 34.48 euros on Monday after falling 3.5 percent in Friday's stock market sell-off, but they are still almost 10 percent below the value of the offer from the RBS-led consortium, which is widely expected to win the takeover battle.

Barclays' bid is currently worth about 34 euros per ABN share. The consortium's offer is worth just over 38 euros.

"The consortium's offer is still uncertain. If something happens to the consortium, you fall back to Barclays' bid," said AEK analyst Carlo Ponfoort, who said there was uncertainty over the consortium obtaining regulatory approval and getting funds.

ABN shares fell as much as 11 percent on Friday amid worries Fortis might not be able to obtain 24 billion in financing it needs for its part of the deal, but Fortis said it was confident about its financing plans.

Analysts said Fortis' financing concerns kept ABN shares close to Barclays' bid value, but believed Fortis and the consortium would still be able to fund the deal despite current fears of a credit squeeze.

"There's a lot of money to be raised, but it would need things to get a lot worse for people to think they can't do this. It shouldn't be an issue, just a bit more expensive," said an analyst who declined to be named.

The gap between the consortium's offer and ABN's share price could also reflect problems that may surface during due diligence, analysts said.

"It seems the market feels there is more, that some party knows something. Based on public information I see no reason why the shares should be so much lower," Theodoor Gilissen analyst Gert-Jaap Kraan said.

(Additional reporting by Steve Slater in London)

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