Whatever the eventual outcome, it is clear that the episode will create interesting precedents. Shareholder rights have been strengthened: boards in Europe will think twice in future before disposing of major corporate assets without shareholder approval during a bidding war. And the conventional wisdom (almost universally held by central banks) that hostile bank takeovers are inconceivable given the financial stability risks, has been overturned. If the saga goes on too long the ABN franchise may suffer, but there is no sign of a bank run, or of emerging systemic risk.
The longer term consequences will be far-reaching. The long-forecast process of banking consolidation in Europe has now started in earnest. There will be many more deals like this one in the next couple of years, which will be good for banking customers, especially in Germany and Italy, who have lived with costly underperforming banks for too long.