ABN Amro to sell assets to ease EC fears

<div>DUTCH state-controlled bank ABN Amro is expected to strike a deal by mid-September to sell some assets to settle European Union competition concerns, the Dutch finance ministry said yesterday.<br /><br />The &euro;70bn (&pound;48bn) purchase of ABN in 2007 by a consortium of Royal Bank of Scotland, Spain&rsquo;s Santander and Belgian-Dutch group Fortis saw Fortis agree to sell Dutch assets to alleviate EU concerns about the deal&rsquo;s impact on competition.<br /><br />European competition commissioner Neelie Kroes has been outspoken about her intention to shrink banks which have benefited from state aid, such as Britain&rsquo;s Lloyds Banking Group, with disposal of assets the favoured method.<br /><br />ABN initially agreed a loss-making sale of assets to Deutsche Bank but found the deal blocked by Holland&rsquo;s central bank after the Dutch operations of ABN and Fortis were nationalised last year.<br /><br />But ABN has been looking for a way to revive the sale, to ease fears that the European Commission (EC) will force it to do so at a later date.<br /><br />&ldquo;We have now set a time path that by mid-August there should be more clarity,&rdquo; a spokeswoman for the Dutch finance ministry said yesterday, adding that a deal is likely to be concluded by the middle of September.<br /><br />But the spokeswoman declined to say if the current interested party was Deutsche Bank renewing its interest, or a different bank altogether.<br /><br />Meanwhile, ABN Amro is understood to be in talks to sublease its 140,000 square metres of office space at the 7 World Trade Center building in New York.<br /><br />The bank signed a deal in 2006 to occupy three and a half floors of the building but never moved in, according to reports from the US.<br /><br />Music licencing group Broadcast Music is understood to be moving in, along with Italy&rsquo;s largest insurer Assicurazioni Generali.</div>