UTRECHT, Netherlands The chief executive of banking and insurance group Fortis, Anton van Rossum, said Monday that it wants an active role in consolidating the European banking and insurance sectors, but he stressed that any merger would have to be one of equals.
If the environment changes, we want to play a proactive role, Mr. van Rossum said, but Fortis wants to define its own destiny.
Mr. van Rossum made the comments after the Belgian-Dutch banking and insurance group reported first-half net profit rose 19%, boosted by a jump in insurance earnings. The group said it turned in a good commercial performance despite the economic slowdown and adverse market conditions.
Any deal should expand Fortis operations into new markets and strengthen its asset gathering, Mr. van Rossum said.
Regarding comments by ABN Amro Holding NV, the Amsterdam-based banking giant, he said, I am very happy several colleagues say we are a nice potential bride ... but we leave that for their account to make those statements. At the presentation of half-year earnings on Aug. 16, ABN Amro chief executive Rijkman Groenink said Fortis would make an interesting merger partner.
Mr. van Rossum confirmed that his company is on track to unify its share structure this year. Fortis is listed on the Brussels and Amsterdam stock exchanges. However, he said, it does not plan to combine its headquarters in Brussels and Utrecht.
Regarding its full-year targets, Mr. van Rossum said achieving them will not be easy in the current market but we will have a fair shot.
Fortis continues to be on the lookout for acquisitions and divestitures, he said, but the number of potential acquisitions at reasonable prices is small.