BELGIUM/NETHERLANDS - Belgian Dutch bancassurer Fortis has reopened its talks with the Belgian government and French baking group BNP Paribas over the sale of its assets, on the recommendation of a court-appointed panel of experts.

"The experts recommend that several significant elements of the agreements made on 3, 5 and 6 October 2008 be renegotiated. Fortis Holding confirms that it has started negotiations with the Belgian government and BNP Paribas in this respect," said Fortis in a statement.

In a separate statement responding to the report of the committee of experts, Fortis added the report of the panel confirmed the decisions taken by Fortis' board of directors in September and October last year "may be considered logical and reasonable, and that they were taken in the interest of the companies and their shareholders".

However, the court-appointed team recommended BNP Paribas, which agreed to pay €14.5bn for the Belgian banking and insurance assets of Fortis, take a smaller stake in the insurance business.

A spokesman for the group said officials were unable to give any further comment during these negotiations.

Fortis confirmed in December last year its asset management arm would remain under state control, following a Brussels' Court of Appeal ruling freezing the sale of Fortis Bank's Belgian assets to French bank BNP Paribas.

BNP Paribas had hoped to settle the deal late last year, but a ruling for a 65-day suspension on the Belgian government's emergency measures - taken in October to save Fortis from bankruptcy - threw the transaction into doubt.

The government's measures included buying the 51% of Fortis it did not already own for €4.7bn and then selling 75% of the company to French bank BNP Paribas.

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