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Monday, November 25, 2002

French Bank Auction

You know, reading this piece in the FT I have one nagging feeling, is this for real? Or are we all hopelessly naieve?

Francis Mer, French finance minister, announced over the weekend that BNP, France's biggest bank by market capitalisation, would pay €2.2bn ($2.2bn), or €58 per share, for the government's stake - a price that exceeds the previous record for Lyonnais shares and represents a 49 per cent premium to the closing price on Friday.There were only four bidders in what is believed to be the quickest privatisation auction in French history. The other three - French banks Crédit Agricole and Société Générale and insurer AGF, part of Germany's Allianz - all offered less than E50 per share, according to insiders. Crédit Lyonnais , most of which was privatised three years ago, has three main shareholders - BNP, AGF and Crédit Agricole. Each has about a tenth of the bank. BNP played down speculation that it would bid for Lyonnais soon, but said there were "obvious" possibilities for co-operation. It plans to begin talks with the Lyonnais management.

Faced with Mr Mer's delight at such a high price in the first round of bidding, BNP executives said the bank had tried to win the stake rather than risk another round. "We offered a high price that reflects the special value of the extraordinary opportunity to replace the state as the largest shareholder in Crédit Lyonnais ," Baudouin Prot, BNP managing director, said.
Source: Financial Times

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