Friday, September 21, 2007

ABN Amro / Groenink / The Last Supper

I went on a little trip to Rotterdam today. A bittersweet moment for Rijkman Groenink, CEO of ABN Amro, no doubt. Presumably his last appearance as chairman of an independent ABN Amro, unless the spinning coin of fate somehow lands on its edge.

Here's a video of him discussing his future.
What's interesting is the degree of confidence with which he talks about what the consortium is going to do once it wins. Remember, Barclays bid is still on the table, and he's said he still prefers it.

Well, at least his head won't be displayed on a spike after the barbarians storm the gate. And at least he can still laugh...

A RBS victory was predictable and predicted.

Here's a smaller clip, with him giving his explanation of the board's neutral stance on the bids.(in Dutch, transcript below).

"Our conclusion, is it can't be denied ... the offer of the consortium is much superior for shareholders. That's just the way it is. So that's in fact, an Anglo Saxon recommendation for shareholders. Only, if we take everything (waves arms) into consideration, we can't come to a recommendation."

If you're American and mystified as to what he's saying: In the U.S. and British systems (which he calls "Anglo-Saxon"), shareholders are king. But in the 'continental' system, managers are supposed to take all 'stakeholders' into account, including customers and employees.

What remains something of a mystery to me, is why exactly he thinks the consortium bid is worse for other 'stakeholders'. More jobs will be lost under the Barclays merger, and Groenink says himself there's little doubt the consortium members will be able to create value and continue to grow and improve ABN's businesses.

Does he think bank customers are going to get the shaft from Fortis more than they would from Barclays (or more than they already do from ABN Amro?) Am I just too cynical about banks generally?.

Anyhow, I think shareholders, executives, employees, bidders, reporters, spokespeople, and most of all people stuck watching this evolve on the nightly news for the past 6 months can all agree we'll be glad when *whichever* deal is finally done.

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