In his weekly economics column in the Guardian, Larry Elliott speculates that the huge amounts of money being mentioned in connection with the desire of various banks to acquire ABN Amro may be a sign that the stock market boom is approaching a peak. The only larger takeover was that of Time Warner by AOL, a harbinger of the popping of the internet stocks bubble.
“In the UK, the Bank of England expressed concern about the increased risk-taking in the City and the exposure of heavily borrowed private equity groups, in the week that a titanic struggle began for control of the Dutch bank ABN Amro. The Royal Bank of Scotland, in cahoots with its Belgian and Spanish partners, is mounting a £49bn hostile bid for ABN to prevent it falling into the hands of Barclays. That’s an awful lot of money to pay for any company, although not quite as much as AOL agreed to pay for Time Warner in January 2000.”
In retrospect, the Time Warner/AOL hook-up was seen as the moment the boom of the late 1990s over-reached itself. It was, according to those with 20-20 hindsight, a moment of hubris. Anybody with a brain in their head could see that the only way for the stock market at the turn of the millennium was down. The intriguing question now is whether the battle for ABN marks a similar high watermark for the current boom.”