Dutch government investigating Fortis ABN buyout

AMSTERDAM, Sept 30 (Reuters) – The Dutch Finance Ministry is looking into the circumstances leading up to the partial nationalisation of Belgian-Dutch bank Fortis, Finance Minister Wouter Bos told Dutch parliament on Tuesday.

The ministry is looking into whether there were risks that weren’t on Fortis’s balance sheet as it sought permission from the ministry to take over ABN AMRO a year ago, but gave no further details on whether there would be a formal inquiry.

Bos said some things ‘came to light’ on Fortis’s balance sheet after it bought ABN, which could have changed the ministry’s decision on giving a declaration of no objection for the acquisition.

‘The financial strength of Fortis was not as we expected,’ Bos said. ‘There was an insufficient view on all the risks.’

Bos said, however, that he was ‘not talking about swindling’ on the part of Fortis.

Fortis couldn’t be reached immediately for comment.

The remarks come two days after the governments of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg swooped in to rescue the Fortis with a 11.2 billion euros capital injection.

The problems at Fortis, whose shares dropped by 50 percent in September, were partly blamed on its taking a slice of ABN AMRO in last year’s 70 billion euro purchase of ABN with partners Royal Bank of Scotland and Santander.

(Reporting by Harro ten Wolde and Reed Stevenson; editing by Carol Bishopric) Keywords: FORTIS/INVESTIGATION