ABN Amro’s fate is also Europe’s
The Dutch bank’s future as a standalone bank is once again in question.
Asked about the likelihood that ABN Amro would be taken over by another bank in the coming five years, one Dutch investment banker says the probability is 100%. But that will be hard while a large chunk of state ownership remains in place, with all the constraints that will mean for the buyer in terms of pay and manoeuvrability.
At the moment, the list of candidates is short. Nordea’s chairman, Björn Wahlroos, advocated a reverse merger with ABN Amro in 2016, but that may have just been to make a point about Swedish regulatory costs – it is now simply moving its headquarters to Finland.
Sure, there are many similarities between Dutch and Nordic banks; they are in highly profitable oligopolistic markets and both have a lot of scope for digital savings.
Nordea, however, is only just getting around to properly integrating the mergers that created the pan-Nordic lender 20 years ago. That integration process will take a few more years yet. Moving immediately on to an equally complicated merger with ABN Amro might be more than investors could stomach.
Danske Bank was more forward-looking in international IT integration and it benefits from that, but its market capitalization advantage over ABN Amro is far smaller.