Today, Ping An Insurance (Group) Company of China Ltd., Fortis Holding's largest shareholder, confirmed media reports that it will in fact vote against the new resolution regarding the partial sale of Fortis Bank SA/NV and Fortis Insurance Belgium SA/NV to France's BNP Paribas (BNP), to be voted on at the general meeting of Fortis SA/NV shareholders planned for February 11. This announcement by the approximately 5% Fortis Holding shareholder presents an additional thorn in the side of Fortis Holding, the Belgian government and BNP, following a tumultuous four months involving the Belgian led government bailout of Fortis Bank SA/NV, Fortis Holding shareholder litigation which effectively halted the deal between the parties, pending a Fortis shareholder vote, and the subsequent renegotiation of the deal.
Various sources have reported that Ping An booked a loss of about 15.7 billion Yuan ($2.30 billion) to mark down the value of its Fortis shareholdings and that it believes that the decisions to sell Fortis Holding assets were driven by the Belgian government and have not only destroyed Fortis' value but have also severely impaired Fortis shareholders' interests as a whole. Assuming Ping An does vote against the resolution, Fortis Holding minority shareholders may have enough votes to block the revised deal. Under such circumstances, the January 31 shareholder circular addendum states that the revised deal between Fortis SA/NV, the Belgian government and BNP would revert back to the original October 2008 agreements between the parties, which involves a 100% (rather than 10%) sale of Fortis Insurance Belgium to BNP and a 10% (rather than 11.6%) ownership stake in a selected Fortis Bank structured credit portfolio.