Harry Potter and the ABN AMRO takeover battle

Posted on Wednesday, 1 August 2007. Filed under: Business Intelligence, Commentary, Mergers |

I expect that not many of the readers of this weblog were up at 5:30am on 30 July watching World Business Report on the BBC (or it’s rebroadcasts in the UK later that morning and globally on BBC World).  So you did miss my discussion on the ABN AMRO takeover battle.

Later that morning, ABN AMRO’s board was to decide whether it would continue to recommend the Barclay’s offer over the RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland) consortium’s offer.  The RBS team (which included Banco Santander of Spain and Fortis of Belgium) still had the higher offer, despite Barclay’s attempts over the prior days to sweeten their offer.

But back to Harry Potter.  I did say on the air that it was likely that the ABN board would hedge their bets and provide no recommendation — that is, letting the shareholders decide without guidance from them.  Here’s where the Harry Potter reference occurs:  ‘No longer can the ABN AMRO board consider the RBS consortium as the Death Eaters from the Harry Potter books, and Barclays as The Order of the Phoenix good guys.  They must consider both to be equally satisfactory acquirers.’

The BBC presenter, Sally Bundock, didn’t miss a beat when she responded with the question, ‘Well, I guess that means that it isn’t going to be a Fight to the Death.’ 

Hopefully, the interchange did wake some people up who were otherwise not paying attention to the business news.

But on a totally serious note, this decision by the ABN board was not without precident.  Just remember the Manchester United board who had done everything they could to stop Malcolm Glazer from purchasing the team, but since his offer had been so attractive, they couldn’t in all fairness tell shareholders that they should reject the offer.   So the Manchester United board reluctantly stood on the fence in 2005, just as the ABN board did on Monday.


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