Belgian and French leaders said Thursday that bailed-out Fortis bank has a future despite shareholder rejection of the sale of the troubled lender to France's BNP Paribas.
Belgian Premier Herman Van Rompuy said the government would, for the time being, remain the majority owner of the bank but was studying what steps it could take following the rejection of the takeover.
"We believe that this bank remains viable with the ownership of the Belgian state," Van Rompuy said after talks with French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, adding the bank's operations "remain healthy."
"Of course we would have preferred another solution, but the shareholders have spoken," Van Rompuy added.
Fillon said his government was not directly involved in Belgian government attempts to sell off large parts of Fortis to BNP Paribas but agreed Belgium had "taken all the necessary decisions to assure the viability" of Fortis amid the global financial crisis.
Fortis shares plunged some 20 percent in early trading and stood at euro1.05 ($1.34) per share at mid-afternoon. They traded at around euro18 ($23) a year ago, but their value has dropped 93 percent since then.