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Norway OKs Takeover of Major Bank

December 18, 2000

OSLO, Norway (AP) _ The government on Monday approved the $3 billion takeover of Norway’s second largest commercial bank, Christiania Bank og Kreditkasse, by the Nordic region’s largest banking group, MeritaNordbanken.

The Finance Ministry said it granted a license to the Finnish-Swedish bank on condition that Christiania continue to operate as a Norwegian bank under national rules. That approval was the last hurdle for the takeover.

MeritaNordbanken’s drive to acquire Christiania started with a bid in August 1999. The breakthrough came two months ago when the Norwegian government, which took control in a bailout in the early 1990s, agreed to sell its 34.6 percent stake in the Norwegian bank.

MeritaNordbanken succeeded in acquiring more than 90 percent of the smaller bank’s shares with an offer that valued Christiania at $3 billion.

Under Norwegian law, anyone who owns more than 90 percent of a company’s shares can force the remaining stockholders to sell.

MeritaNordbanken was formed through the 1997 merger of Finland’s Merita and Sweden’s Nordbanken. Earlier this year, it merged with Denmark’s second largest finance group, Unidanmark.

After the Christiania takeover, the group has nearly 10 million customers, 1,260 bank branches and 125 insurance offices in Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark.