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On-off bank merger staggers on

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On-off bank merger staggers on

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It is proving to be a difficult birth for what would be Europe’s ninth biggest bank, as the Dexia-San Paulo merger project grinds on.

The boss of Franco-Belgian Dexia, Pierre Richard and his Italian counterpart thought it was a good idea at the time, but a year on from starting talks they are no nearer realising their dream, and are facing a shareholders revolt. They are annoyed they have not been kept informed, or been involved in negotiations. Notably the near 38 percent share held by Belgian municipalities, insurer Ethias and investors Arcofin in the ARCO group fear dilution of their holdings, and voting power, in any deal. They are questioning the fitting together of Dexia, a big municipal lender, with San Paolo’s mostly retail banking and asset management activities. The deal’s supporters counter that the pair are complimentary, especially as Dexia’s a retail banker in Belgium. On the Italian side things are no less complicated as San Paolo’s shareholders are insisting on a merger between equals, with the headquarters in Turin.