BENELUX – Fortis is looking at rival banking and insurance group Dexia, according to a Belgian newspaper report.

Le Soir, citing what it termed a “good source”, said Fortis is leaning towards Dexia.

“Fortis notes the press comment on possible contacts between Fortis and Dexia,” the former stated today.

It added: “Many files are currently being studied by Fortis in the context of the evolution of the European financial sector. All these files are at an early stage so that there is at present no expectation that a transaction will materialize.

“At this stage Fortis will refrain from further comment.” It did not deny that the talks had taken place. A Dexia spokeswoman said: “We are not aware of any operation between Fortis and Dexia and we confirm not having been in contact with Fortis in this regard.”

A merger of the two banks would create an entity with about €14bn in combined revenues. It would have a market capitalisation of around €50bn, Le Soir said.

Their fund management units would have combined assets under management of more than €224bn.

Dexia has just started a custody relationship with Royal Bank of Canada.

Last month Fortis declined to comment on a newspaper report that it is looking for a partner for Fortis Investments.