Fortis liquidates banking arm remnants

BELGIAN group Fortis drew a line under its involvement in the financial crisis yesterday, liquidating the holding company that housed its banking arm before it was sold off.

The Brussels-based institution, which now focuses purely on insurance, said it would book a €11.7bn (£10.3bn) tax credit on losses incurred when the division was offloaded at a knock-down price to BNP Paribas in October 2008.

Fortis said it would be able to sell its option in BNP Paribas tax-free. But analysts were disappointed that Fortis’ ongoing operations are structured such that it will only be able to offset €18m of the mammoth loss against tax each year. The deal will roll until the sum is used up.

Jaap Meijer, analyst at Evolution Securities, said: “It’s a bit less than you might expect, but it’s still positive going forwards.”

Fortis’s banking unit overstretched itself in 2007 by joining Royal Bank of Scotland and Santander’s now-infamous bid for ABN Amro. A year later, BNP Paribas took it over for €14.5bn – a fraction of its pre-crunch value.

Shares in Fortis rose 4.9 per cent to a four-month high of €2.79 on the news before falling back slightly to €2.75.