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Netherlands nationalizes SNS Reaal at cost of $5 billion

The logos of Dutch banking and insurance group SNS Reaal are seen in Utrecht November 13, 2008. REUTERS/Michael Kooren.
The logos of Dutch banking and insurance group SNS Reaal are seen in Utrecht November 13, 2008. REUTERS/Michael Kooren.

By Thomas Escritt and Anthony Deutsch

THE HAGUE/AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Netherlands nationalized bank and insurance group SNS Reaal at a cost of 3.7 billion euros ($5 billion) on Friday to shore up confidence in the financial sector after a private investor-led rescue collapsed.

Another state rescue of a financial group will lead to a worsening in the Dutch budget deficit this year - which is already forecast to exceed European Union targets - and is likely to prompt a public outcry given the billions of euros of budget cuts and austerity measures in recent years.

It is also a sign of how many European banks, five years on from the height of the global financial crisis, are struggling to turn a corner amid weak economies and tougher regulations. French bank Credit Agricole announced over $5 billion of charges on Friday, a day after Deutsche Bank also unveiled big writedowns.

The Dutch government paid out nearly 40 billion euros to rescue the domestic financial sector in 2008 when it provided capital injections for ING , Aegon and SNS Reaal, as well as nationalizing ABN AMRO .

SNS Reaal, the fourth-biggest financial institution in the Netherlands with about 134 billion euros in assets last year, was hit by losses at its property unit and has been trying for months to sell assets and secure additional funding.

The emergency bailout was necessary after SNS Reaal failed to meet a January 31 deadline to come up with a rescue, Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem told a press conference.

Its collapse "would have unacceptably large and undesirable consequences for financial stability, the Dutch economy and the Dutch tax payer," Dijsselbloem wrote in a letter to parliament.

"I have studied all the alternative solutions in detail. But last night I found there was no acceptable solution. Therefore we have to nationalize," he added in a statement.

SNS Reaal will receive a capital injection of 2.2 billion euros, 1.1 billion euros in loans, and 5 billion euros in state guarantees. Dutch banks will contribute an additional, one-off charge of 1 billion euros to the rescue in 2014.

"I can understand the reluctance that many will feel again because a large amount of public money is required. Therefore I want the private sector to contribute as much as possible to help pay for the rescue of SNS Reaal," Dijsselbloem said.

SNS Reaal, which received 750 million euros of state aid in 2008, said its top executives - chairman Rob Zwartendijk, chief executive Ronald Latenstein and finance chief Ference Lamp - had resigned, as they still wanted to find a private sector solution.

SNS Reaal's property finance exposure, including commercial real estate loans to small and medium-sized companies, stood at 9.8 billion euros at the end of September, of which 2.3 billion euros were non-performing loans.

It has booked more than 1.3 billion euros of net losses on its property loans since 2009.

Dutch media reported on Thursday that a consortium led by private equity firm CVC Capital Partners was in talks to pump up to 1.8 billion euros into SNS Reaal, but a source familiar with the matter said talks with private investors had not worked out.

(Writing by Sara Webb; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters and Mark Potter)

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