France, Belgium reach deal on Dexia bank

2011-10-10 17:17:56

France, Belgium and Luxembourg said on Sunday they had reached a deal to dismantle troubled bank Dexia, the first victim of the eurozone debt crisis.

"The proposed solution, which is the Fresult of intensive consultations between all involved parties, will be submitted to the Dexia board, whose responsibility it is to approve the plan," a joint statement said.

The French and Belgian prime ministers, Francois Fillon and Yves Leterme, held a lunch-time meeting to finalise a deal to dismantle the bank, which also had to be rescued in 2008 at the start of the global financial crisis.

Dexia's board, which met at 3:00 pm (1300) GMT must sign off the deal, while Belgium's cabinet was set to meet at 2200 GMT to review the terms, details of which have begun to emerge in the media.

Belgium's Le Soir newspaper reported that Brussels had agreed to pay 4 billion euros ($5.4 billion) for the bank's Belgian retail banking arm, Dexia Bank Belgium (DBB), a price thought to be towards the low end of its value, estimated between 3 and 7.5 billion euros.

"The Belgian state would be the only shareholder, through its financial arm," Le Soir said, while L'Echo newspaper reported that Belgium would later seek to move some of the bank's assets to the Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels regions.

L'Echo's report was consistent with earlier comments from Belgian Finance Minister Didier Reynders, who told the RTBF television station the Belgian state was prepared to control 100 percent of DBB for a limited period of time.

"If we were at 100 percent, which I do not exclude, it is not our intention to stay forever. (But) That doesn't mean that we will stay for three or six months."

"I don't exclude that in three or five years, maybe more, we will still be present" in the bank, he said.

Aside from the sale price, negotiators also needed to agree on the guarantees backing up a so-called "bad bank" that will remain after Dexia's dismantling, to hold high-risk assets.

L'Echo reported that Belgium had, in accordance with French wishes, agreed to guarantee 60 percent of the so-called "bad bank" assets, compared to 36.5 percent for France and 3.5 percent for Luxembourg.

These terms mark a victory for Paris, which must avoid any moves that could threaten its prized "AAA" credit rating.

On Friday, ratings agency Moody's said it had placed Belgium's credit worthiness under review and that a downgrade was possible partly over the country's plans to bail out Dexia.

Luxembourg is reportedly in the advanced stages of selling Dexia's Luxembourg operations, Dexia BIL, to an unnamed international investor.

All three governments involved were keen to finalise a deal before stock markets open on Monday.

The NYSE Euronext stock exchange suspended trading in Dexia shares on Thursday following a request of the Belgian market regulator, FSMA.

Trading in the stock was halted during a session in which it had fallen 17.24 percent to 0.85 euros per share.

Dexia had relied heavily on money market funding for its operations, but such financing has become scarcer and more expensive for eurozone banks due to concerns over their sovereign debt exposure.

Meanwhile Russia's largest bank Sberbank is looking to acquire Dexia's Turkish subsidiary DenizBank, according to media reports.

And Germany's Der Spiegel magazine said Dexia's German unit was also fighting for survival due to heavy exposure in indebted European countries.

The subsidiary Dexia Kommunalbank Deutschland AG made loans of 5.4 billion euros ($7.2 billion) to Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain, which are all struggling with mounting debts, Spiegel said.