Havoc in the Netherlands

Author: | Published: 1 Jul 2007

Rachel Evans
Staff writer

"They're American asset strippers," says Kris Ruijters, head of M&A at AKD Prinsen Van Wijmen in Amsterdam. "To their own surprise they came to a country that looked perfectly normal; but here, if you can get 10% of a company, you can force the board to do unimaginable things."

Ruijters is not alone in his anger. Hedge fund TCI's February letter to ABN Amro demanding the board adopt a strategy of divestiture and the ensuing takeover battle for the bank have prompted a backlash against activist shareholders: politicians are debating the issue in the Dutch parliament; the media is denouncing the power of the foreign investors; and shareholder activism is the hot topic of discussion in legal circles. At the heart of this furore lies the complaint that Dutch companies are being dictated to by a foreign minority.

Foreign investors make up an estimated 80%...