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Going Dutch

The news that Barclays is in exclusive “merger” talks with ABN Amro has obviously generated a lot of comment. I’ll leave all the clever-Trevor stuff about whether or not the proposed tie-up makes sense to the well-paid “analists” who know far more about these things than I do, even if, as my regular readers will vouch, I too have an amazing ability to talk out of my nether regions.

It’s clear to me who will have the upper hand if the deal does go ahead even if the fact that the merged entity will be listed in London, headquartered in Amsterdam and regulated by the Dutch central bank ostensibly makes it look even-Stevens.

However, a joke doing the rounds in the market perfectly sums up the true situation. “You know how it’s become a custom in mergers for each bank to keep part of its name,” it goes. “Well Barclays will keep Barclays, and ABN Amro is to keep Bank,” it concludes.

From an FX perspective, what will the new business look like? Last year, Barclays had a 6.61% share of the market, according to the Euromoney poll. ABN’s share was 2.93%. Even if Barclays were to retain all of ABN’s share, which is extremely unlikely, it would not move further up the rankings, based purely on the 2006 results. Using a football (or soccer for the benefit of my US readers) analogy, Barclays is a little bit like Chelsea or Manchester United. The bank has got its chequebook out and spent heavily to build a winning team.

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