ABN AMRO profit seven times higher

City A.M. Reporter
Dutch state-owned bank ABN AMRO, which is being readied for a stock market listing in 2014, said operating profit surged sevenfold in 2010 after loan losses fell.

The Dutch state nationalised the local ABN AMRO and Fortis entities in 2008 after the dramatic failure of a three-pronged hostile takeover of ABN AMRO by Royal Bank of Scotland, Fortis and Banco Santander.

The finance ministry has said it would start preparing a listing of ABN AMRO in 2013, with a possible initial public offering the following year.

Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager also said the state would keep its options open, but that a sale to another bank was less likely than an IPO.

ABN AMRO's chief executive, Gerrit Zalm, declined to comment on a possible deal with a strategic investor.

"The ministry has said ... an IPO is the most logical route and it would keep options open for alternatives," Zalm told Reuters, and he declined to say whether there had been interest from potential buyers.

That hasn't stopped speculation in the market about a possible strategic sale to a larger European bank.

"We regularly get questions from investment banks. But this is primarily a question for the shareholder. Every bank of course wants to do this IPO; it is quite prestigious," ABN AMRO's chief financial officer, Jan van Rutte, told reporters.

Zalm, himself a former finance minister, said in a statement he welcomed the listing plans and he expected integration costs to fall "sharply" after €1.5bn (£920m) net costs related to the integration and separation from Fortis and RBS.

ABN AMRO's 2010 underlying net profit, which excludes the integration and separation costs, was almost €1.1bn, compared with €142m in 2009, mostly due to a halving of loan impairments to €837m, ABN said.

ABN AMRO said profit also rose as net interest income climbed 15 per cent to €4.9bn because of better interest rate margins on loans, especially mortgages, and saving deposits.

Overall, the bank reported a net loss of €414m for 2010 because of separation and integration costs, compared with a net profit of €274m in 2009.

Van Rutte, chief financial officer, said he expected another €400m of integration costs this year and 200 million in 2012 but the expected total of €1.6bn would not be exceeded.

The bank said operating expenses rose two per cent to a total of €305m due to "several large legal provisions and expenses relating to international activities conducted in the past" by its commercial, retail and private banking operations.

The bank declined to give details, but ABN AMRO is one of several banks facing claims following the conviction of US swindler Bernard Madoff.