ABN AMRO cuts 9 percent of jobs in run-up to sale

AMSTERDAM Fri Aug 26, 2011 6:43am EDT

The head office of ABN AMRO bank is seen in Amsterdam May 29, 2007. REUTERS/Koen van Weel

The head office of ABN AMRO bank is seen in Amsterdam May 29, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Koen van Weel

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Nationalised Dutch bank ABN AMRO ABNNV.UL is shedding 2,350 jobs -- some 9 percent of its workforce -- as the state readies it for a return to private hands.

The bank said it expected 1,500 redundancies and 850 positions to be lost through natural attrition in the next three to four years.

Most of the job cuts will be in back-office operations such as IT, but some retail and private banking positions will also be axed. The bank said it has taken a restructuring provision of 200 million euros pre-tax for the redundancies.

Global banks have announced close to 50,000 job cuts in recent months in the face of sluggish economic growth, volatile markets and regulatory changes.

The Dutch state, which nationalized ABN AMRO during the 2008 financial crisis, plans to sell ABN AMRO in 2014 or later, preferably by listing it on the stock market, so improving efficiency would make the bank more attractive to potential buyers.

Historically, ABN AMRO has had a relatively high cost-to-income ratio compared with other banks.

The bank said its underlying cost-income ratio fell to 63 percent at the end of June, from 75 percent a year ago, and that the job cuts would bring it below 60 percent.

"If you look at the period 1995 to 2007, in that 12-year period the lowest realized cost-income ratio was 67 percent. So we have a historical record," ABN AMRO Chief Executive Gerrit Zalm told reporters.

The main reason for the cuts was a desire to be more efficient said Zalm -- a former Dutch finance minister who earned a reputation as a fiscal hawk -- and was not a reflection of the deteriorating economic outlook in Europe.

Dutch rival ING (ING.AS) (ING.N) has reported an underlying cost-income ratio of 59.2 percent, while Rabobank has an efficiency ratio of 59.7 percent.

The Dutch government nationalized the Dutch operations of ABN AMRO and Fortis for 16.8 billion euros when Belgian-Dutch Fortis group lost investors' confidence at the height of the credit crisis in 2008.

ABN AMRO said in a statement it wanted to improve services to customers by offering new products such as banking on mobile phones, and reduce bureaucracy, resulting in the job cuts.

It also plans to create about 450 new jobs in the next few years, especially in private banking, commodities and shipping finance, and clearing and settlement, Zalm said.

The bank said it would pay an interim dividend of 200 million euros, its first since it was bailed out and nationalized.

Underlying second-quarter net profit rose to 391 million euros from 11 million a year ago thanks to higher non-interest income and lower provisions.

Underlying results exclude integration and separation costs due to the ABN AMRO break-up following the takeover by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L), Santander (SAN.MC) and Fortis in 2007.

(Editing by Sara Webb and Helen Massy-Beresford)

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