Dutch Giant Plans More Acquisitions In Chicago

Officials of ABN Amro, the giant Dutch bank that officially completed a merger Monday, said they expect to make further acquisitions in Chicago even after absorbing Talman Home Federal Savings and Loan.

ABN Amro -- the combination of Algemene Bank Nederland and Amsterdam-Rotterdam Bank - said it saw total U.S. assets growing to $40 billion, from $32 billion, within a few years.

Officials said a significant portion of the U.S. growth would come through acquisitions of banks by LaSalle National Corp., ABN Amro's Chicago banking affiliate.

Hot Chicago Market

Chicago and much of Illinois have become hot acquisition markets, fueled by such recent invaders as NBD Bancorp and First of America Bank Corp., from Michigan, and Banc One Corp., from Ohio.

Pursuing an international expansion strategy similar to ABN Amro's, Bank of Montreal, the parent of Harris Bankcorp, Chicago, has said it, too, seeks significant expansion in the region.

Aldert E. Blank, vice chairman of Chicago-based ABN Amro North America Inc., the Dutch bank's U.S. holding company, said it "made sense" for ABN Amro to focus on the Chicago market, where it is already strong.

LaSalle has ranked second in retail deposits in the Chicago area since acquiring Talman in July. First Chicago Corp. leads the market, and a Citicorp thrift subsidiary is third.

Interest in Adjacent States

"Our philosophy is that, if you can't see it from the Sears Tower, we're not interested," said Harrison Tempest, chairman and chief executive of ABN Amro North America.

Mr. Tempest and other officials declined to discuss any target for ABN Amro, but he said the company would move into neighboring states if an opportunity arose.

Mr. Blank added that ABN Amro will steer clear of large acquisitions, which could bring "undue risk."

Instead, ABN Amro will look at banks that can be integrated into its existing network. That would permit it to "go deeper into the market" by either gaining market share or adding to its retail and middle-market services.

Further expansion in the Chicago area is part of a long-term plan launched by Algemene Bank Nederland in 1978 -- with its acquisition of LaSalle -- to build up operations in the United States.

"The U.S. still has the largest economy in the world and is politically stable," Mr. Blank said. "We have come to the conclusion we cannot afford not to be here."

The Dutch banking group, whose merger was pending from March 1990 until the official completion Monday, is the world's 16th-largest, with about $230 billion in assets. It has 1,850 branches in 52 countries.

The group's $32 billion in U.S. assets include $13.3 billion at LaSalle, $4.8 billion at European American Bank in New York, and $10 billion at 10 branches of the parent bank.

Investment Bank Activities

In addition to expanding out of Chicago, officials said, ABN Amro plans to use its combined clout to increase corporate loan underwritings.

"We have few restrictions on growth except return on capital," said Paul Harinstein, senior vice president and manager for ABN Amro in New York.

The company also aims to expand its U.S. securities-related activities through ABN Amro Capital Markets. To this end, it recently got Federal Reserve Board approval to engage in limited securities underwriting under Section 20 of the Bank Holding Company Act.

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