Market and policy climateMarket climate
How would you describe the current market climate for M&A activity in the financial services sector in your jurisdiction?
Financial services M&A in the Netherlands is currently relatively active, particularly in the areas of insurance, payment services and, increasingly, fintech.
In insurance, some of the larger players such as NN Group, Aegon and Athora Netherlands have been engaged in M&A to optimise their business portfolios. This includes, notably, NN’s announced disposal of NN Investment Partners to Goldman Sachs Asset Management. Before the covid-19 pandemic, there was considerable private equity interest in the Dutch closed book life insurance market but this has been a less active area recently.
Payment services is currently an attractive area for growth capital – for example, the recent funding rounds for Dutch unicorn Mollie and the sale of Buckaroo to Blackfin. There is also increasing M&A interest in other Dutch fintechs, such as SaaS solutions for large banks and other financial services firms.
There has been limited M&A activity in the Dutch banking sector recently, with the notable exception of Blackstone’s take-private of NIBC Bank, and Société Générale and ALD’s planned acquisition of Dutch-based car leasing company (with a digital deposit bank) LeasePlan. As in most of Europe, there is much anticipation of cross-border banking consolidation in the coming years.Government policy
How would you describe the general government policy towards regulating M&A activity in the financial services sector? How has this policy been implemented in practice?
Generally, the Dutch government is not actively involved in M&A activity in the financial sector and leaves the assessments thereof to the regulatory authorities. Politically most discussions take place in the European arena and not such much at national level. However, the Dutch government holds various interests in the financial sector.
The Dutch foundation NL Financial Investments (NLFI), acting on behalf of the Dutch State, holds a stake of ~56 per cent in ABN AMRO bank, and a stake of 100 per cent in De Volksbank, two Dutch significant credit institutions. NLFI is a foundation with a statutory task established by the Minister of Finance and was established to exercise the shareholder rights on behalf of the Dutch state in a number of financial institutions in a business-like, non-political manner and to separate the interests in a transparent manner. The Dutch Minister of Finance in January confirmed she is working towards downsizing NLFI’s interest in ABN AMRO, although the exact timing is uncertain. She furthermore expects the holding in De Volksbank to remain unchanged in the foreseeable future. In the long run, the intention is to also decrease this interest of the Dutch state.
In addition, the Dutch state holds stakes in various other entities active in the financial services industry in light of the public interest: FMO, BNG Bank NV, the Nederlandse Waterschapsbank NV and Invest-NL. It has no intention to decrease its stake in these entities.