NETHERLANDS - Giant Dutch pension fund ABP and pensions provider-cum-asset manager Cordares will this week start exclusive talks to explore a cooperation and a possible merger.

ABP and Cordares said in a joint press release they aim to devise a 'declaration of intent' over next few weeks, in which both parties will set down the main principles of a future cooperation.

Both parties have the same vision on the pensions market, and the cooperation should effect synergies in terms of asset management, pension administration and IT systems, ABP spokesman Hans ten Brinke told IPE this morning.

A merger of the two groups would result into one of the world's largest pension providers of collective pensions, with a total of €245bn in managed assets, the Cordares and ABP said in their release.

Cordares, which last year pushed into the Italian pension market, said it has been looking to expand since a number of years: "We are a proponent of, for instance, getting much more cooperation in the sector in terms of value transfer," spokesman Franck Erkens explained.

He added Cordares aims "to support the solid, collective Dutch pension system in which a good product is offered at a price that is as competitive as possible."

A merger will also give ABP a wider scope in terms of Dutch clientele: "We give ABP the possibility of targeting smaller pension funds in the future, via what will be a conglomerate," he said.

Erkens added Cordares approached ABP when the €218bn scheme announced earlier this year it would split into a fund and an - as yet nameless - separate administration body by March next year.

According to Erkens, these initial talks eventually led the two parties to this week to decide to enter into exclusive talks.

Under any agreement, the Cordares' brand would continue to exist, and the firm will continue to service its clients.

"ABP's split will formally take place on March 1 next year, so formally we can merge only then, if the talks go well that is," said Erkens.

No contact has yet been made with the Dutch regulatory bodies, AFM, DNB and Nma; the two parties said they would approach the regulators in due course.

Cordares, previously SFB Groep, is linked to the Dutch building sector. Cordares is headed by Adri van der Wurff, who together with ABP's Dick Sluimers is leading the merger talks.

Van der Wurff started recently with the firm, after chairman Joep Schouten's departure.

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