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ABN Declines to Swap Greek Debt, Saying Criteria Unclear

ABN Amro Group NV, the lender nationalized by the Netherlands in 2008, declined to swap corporate loans backed by the Greek state for new securities, saying the country’s debt-restructuring process is unclear.

“There remained insufficient clarity as to why our loans were included” on a list by the Greek Finance Ministry in February, said Jeroen van Maarschalkerweerd, a spokesman for the Amsterdam-based lender. He said ABN Amro informed Greek representatives of its decision at a meeting in London today.

ABN Amro holds about 1.3 billion euros ($1.7 billion) of Greek government-guaranteed corporate loans and notes, including loans to public-transportation companies. Last year, the bank wrote down 880 million euros on the debt, which is governed by U.K. law.

Greece said last week that it exchanged 20.3 billion euros of bonds issued under foreign law for new securities as part of the biggest debt restructuring in history. Together with the domestic-law bonds dealt with in March, Greece reorganized 198.6 billion euros of debt, according to a statement on the Finance Ministry’s website on April 12. That’s about 96.6 percent of the 205.5 billion euros of notes eligible for restructuring, the government said.

‘Seems Sloppy’

ABN Amro Chairman Gerrit Zalm said in March that he would seek clarity on why certain loans were on the list for the swap, while other debt was absent. “It seems sloppy, or there’s something behind it we do not yet grasp,” he told reporters on March 9.

The next steps to be taken are up to Greece, ABN spokesman Van Maarschalkerweerd said.

“We’ve transferred our shares in ABN Amro to an independent government agency and do not comment on their business operations,” said Niels Redeker, a spokesman for the Dutch finance ministry. The Greek finance ministry wasn’t immediately able to comment.

Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager has been among the strongest advocates that banks participate in Greece’s debt restructuring.

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