Dutch bank Fortis shares plunge on asset sale reports

THE HAGUE, September 26, 2008 (AFP) – Shares in Belgian-Dutch bank Fortis fell more than 12 percent Friday, having lost some 20 percent at one stage the previous day despite its denial that it faced liquidity problems.

Press reports Friday said the giant banking group was looking at asset sales of up to 10 billion euros (14.6 billion dollars) to boost its funds.

Le Soir daily said that outside its home Benelux markets, “anything could be for sale,” pointing to the Turkish operations acquired only in 2005.

On Thursday, when Fortis shares finished with a loss of 6.31 percent, the company rejected speculation that the Dutch central bank (DNB) had asked Rabobank for a cash injection for its rival.

“Fortis firmly denies rumours currently in the market and confirms its earlier statements,” it said in a statement.

Last week, Fortis also suffered stiff losses amid European market jitters as top US financial institutions crumbled.

At the time, the bank said its exposure to collapsed US investment bank Lehman Brothers was some 137 million euros (about 194 million dollars). In July, Fortis announced that its chief executive officer, Jean-Paul Votron, was stepping down amid shareholder anger at his ha