underwrote a bond issue for 100 million European Currency Units (ECUs), matched by warrants which enabled them to raise their crossholdings to a little over 25%. This facility constituted substantial protection against any unfriendly approaches by third parties. In addition, two directors from each institution joined the Board of the other bank. AMRO stock was listed on the Brussels stock exchange and that of Générale de Banque on the Amsterdam stock exchange.

In addition to a number of cooperation agreements which focused on preferential channelling of the current business lending to Dutch companies, placing issues, etc two fairly important events for the Dutch-Belgian banking alliance took place in October 1988. First, Générale de Banque took over the AMRO Bank Antwerp branch, whose 120 staff were specialised in commercial and financial relations between Belgium and the Netherlands. It had a balance sheet total in the tens of billions of Belgian francs. In addition the bank opened ten Eurodesks five in Belgium, five in the Netherlands designed to provide a full service to the 2,500 or so companies operating in both countries and to the thousands of firms which were trading in the Benelux countries.

However, in the end the Générale de Banque/AMRO agreement fell to the ground. In essence the failure was due to the change that had taken place in the shareholding of Générale de Banque, when the French Suez group took control of Société Générale de Belgique. Following this change of share ownership at the Belgian holding company, the attitude of its representatives in the merger negotiations changed. It is clear that the Suez group had other ambitions for Générale de Banque than a merger with AMRO. Apparently they thought the merger terms too disadvantageous to the Belgian side. Moreover, Société Générale de Belgique s stake in its banking subsidiary would end up being highly diluted as a result of the proposed merger. Alternatives were needed. In the end the merger plans were cancelled. On 18 September 1989, the two banks signed a cooperation protocol which replaced the agreement of February 1988. After eighteen months of intensive work it emerged that the objective of an international integrated banking group lacks realism, both as regards the identity and autonomy of the two institutions and for legal and fiscal reasons101.

Générale de Banque takes over Crédit Lyonnais Bank Nederland (1995)

After the attempted merger with AMRO came to nothing, Générale de Banque had to start again from scratch thinking about its future and in particular how it would expand internationally. In any case, it was a priority to set up in the Netherlands, a country which was a major trading partner. The Belgian bank saw its domestic market as covering a radius of 400 kilometres around Brussels. It already had several active subsidiaries in

101. Générale de Banque, Anual report for 1989, p. 11.

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