Hope came under the control of ABN. Following the merger of these two universal banks in 1991 to form ABN AMRO Bank, the two merchant banks were fused in 1993 to form MeesPierson.

It was difficult at the beginning for MeesPierson. The merger had a major impact on its business. In addition MeesPierson s business and that of its shareholder started to overlap, so that they found themselves in competition with each other. ABN AMRO decide to put MeesPierson up for sale. The merchant bank still had a strong international reputation, and in 1996 had 3,867 employees, 1,600 of whom were working outside the Netherlands.

Under the new management, the bank started to recover. In 1995, it made 3.3 billion Belgian francs in profit, excluding extraordinary income, and at the end of the first half of 1996, profits were already at 2.4 billion francs.

For the Fortis Group, MeesPierson represented a unique opportunity to add to its Dutch banking network which up to then had consisted only of the savings bank VSB to broaden the Group s clientele to include the Corporate segment, and to enter the private banking business. It was also a way for the cross-border group to re-establish the balance between the Dutch and Belgian banking assets. For ABN AMRO Bank, the sale of MeesPierson to the Fortis Group was seen as more favourable than selling the bank to one of its main rivals on the Dutch market, i.e. ING or Rabobank.

In late December 1996, the two groups agreed the ways and means of the deal. The acquisition of MeesPierson cost Fortis 46 billion Belgian francs (2.5 billion guilders).

Fortis takes over Générale de Banque (1998)

Early in 1998, the Belgian financial scene was shaken by events linked to the plans for creating a major Belgian bank , through a merger between Générale de Banque and Banque Bruxelles-Lambert (the future ING Belgique) or with Crédit Communal (the future Dexia). In the end the Suez Group/Société Générale de Belgique decided to exit the banking sector. The Fortis Group applied to take over Générale de Banque, intending to make it the banking lynchpin of its Group.

It was only in early May 1998, at the end of a long trial of strength between the Bank s man- agement and its shareholders, that Fortis finalised an agreement which enabled it to take over Générale de Banque. At the last minute, the Générale de Banque Board had received and rejected a partnership proposal from ABN AMRO. On 17 May, the three main share- holders of Générale de Banque Société Générale de Belgique, Mutuelle Solvay and Union Financière Boël agreed to transfer to Fortis AG all the Générale de Banque shares they owned, i.e. 32.8% of the capital. Plans for a public offer were unveiled to the press on 18 May. The shares in Générale de Banque changed hands for 24,720 francs apiece.

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