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Belgium mulls Fortis shareholder compensation

The Belgian government will discuss on Tuesday whether Fortis shareholders could be compensated for their loss since the break-up and sale of the group to BNP Paribas, Belgian daily De Tijd said.

However, the newspaper quoted a government source as saying compensation seemed unlikely as it would be unacceptable for the state to ask taxpayers to foot the bill, and BNP appeared reluctant to raise its bid.

A government spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

The Brussels court of appeal froze the deal with France's BNP in December, ordering that shareholders be allowed to vote on the transaction at a meeting due to be held on February 12.

If the government fails to find a way to compensate Fortis shareholders, the sale will remain suspended until that date, De Tijd said.

Fortis was carved up by the Dutch, Belgian and Luxembourg governments in October, with BNP buying the Belgian operations after an €11.2 billion ($15.6 billion) cash injection failed to calm investor concerns.

The deals left Fortis Group with only its international insurance business and a 66% share of a €10.4 billion portfolio of structured credit products.

Fortis shares have dropped from almost €30 in April 2007 to just above €5 before the state-led break-up and to just over €1 now. (Reuters)