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Dutch fear of being cleaned out by Belgian takeovers is unfounded

23 November 2016
Dries Faems

In the last few days, the potential takeover of PostNL by the Belgian firm BPost caused shockwaves in the Dutch media. ‘Reading the coverage, you’d think that the Dutch business sector was on the point of being cleaned out by a hungry pack of Belgian wolves. This fear is unfounded. Research shows that over the last thirty years, Dutch companies have actually been more active on the Belgian market than the other way around’, says Prof. Dries Faems from the University of Groningen.

Faems and Killian McCarthy, both working for the Vinci centre of expertise of the Faculty of Economics and Business, conducted a systematic study of takeover activity between Dutch and Belgian companies over the last thirty years. Their analysis shows that Dutch companies were much more active on the Belgian market than vice versa. The researchers identified 627 cases of Belgian companies being acquired by Dutch firms, as opposed to 423 cases of Dutch companies being taken over by Belgian firms.

Stable situation

The research reveals that the situation has been stable throughout. The only year in which Belgian companies acquired more Dutch companies than the other way around was 2015. The analysis also shows that the conclusion reached by Faems and McCarthy is consistent across the various sectors. Takeover activity undertaken by Dutch companies is more common than that of our southern neighbours in almost every sector. The only exception is the health sector, where Belgian companies are more active on the Dutch takeover market than vice versa.

Takeover Delhaize

Based on their research, McCarthy and Faems conclude that it is our southern neighbour who should be concerned about being cleaned out, rather than the other way around. ‘The Ahold takeover of the supermarket chain Delhaize in 2015 is a good example’, claims Faems. ‘Belgian consumers are still trying to accept seeing typical Dutch delicacies like a broodje kroket and peanut butter on their shelves!’

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