BELGIUM - ABN Amro Asset Management and KBC Asset Management face losing mandates if the 160 million-euro pension fund of the Brussels International Airport Co. (BIAC) is transferred to the Belgian state following privatisation.

The move would be a similar to the situation at state-owned Belgacom, where 10 managers lost mandates when the assets were handed to the state just over a year ago.

The transfer would follow a deal announced earlier this month whereby a group led by Australia’s Macquarie Airports said they would by BIAC for 735 million euros.

“The pension fund will be transferred to the state because of two reasons,” said an official who advised minister Johan Vande Lanotte on the sale.

“One it concerns first pillar pension obligations, and when BIAC will be transformed form a public law status to a private law status it would be an unusual situation to have a private law status company paying and guaranteeing for its pension liabilities.

“Secondly, part of the funding of the BIAC pension fund is done through a loan, which could be refinanced in line of the totality of the transaction, tackling the existence of the fund.

“In summary, it is unusual to let a private company bear the volatility consequences from first pillar liabilities.”

The official added: “As the transfer is done amongst other modalities through a cash payment to the state, the assets are not taken over and hence the asset managers will probably be dismissed.”

The Belgian state, which currently owns a 63.5% stake, will retain 30% of the company. “The Belgian government has decided to pursue this transaction as the culmination of a continuing process begun in 1997,” it also said.

“The parties involved are still discussing the conditions of such potential transfer,” said Pierre Walkiers, director of corporate finance at ING Belgium.

Walkiers said approximately 75% of the fund's assets consists of a loan granted to BIAC, while the other assets are managed by ABN Amro and KBC. The fund is 65/35 invested in bonds/equity.

The completion of the transaction is anticipated to take place at the around the end of the year.

A spokesman for ABN Amro Asset Management declined to comment, while KBC was not available for comment.