Celebrations were held outside the headquarters of Norway’s biggest bank, DNB, after the country’s competition authority blocked its pending takeover of Sbanken. The regulators feared it would further weaken competition in Norway and make DNB even more dominant than it already is.
“This was fantastic news,” Christian Jahr, one of Sbanken‘s most enthusiastic customers, told newspaper Aftenposten. Jahr has been among the leaders of a group formed to “save Sbanken” from the clutches of DNB. He was delighted the regulators at Konkurransetilsynet had determined that a takeover of the small, low-fee online bank by DNB would lead to higher prices and weaken alternatives for those saving money in funds.
DNB officials claimed to be “surprised and disappointed” by the competition authorities. Analysts and commentators claim DNB underestimated the uproar the takeover would cause, and several newspapers editorialized in favour of the authorities’ decision.
“The competition authority has bared its teeth in forbidding the acquisition,” editorialized Dagsavisen on Wednesday. None of DNB’s three revisions of its initial takeover offer were accepted. “Norway doesn’t need an even bigger (DNB) and more concentration of power,” the paper added. “Bank customers must have choices. They’re best-served by allowing Sbanken to remain a pebble in DNB’s shoe.” Despite what turned into a PR catastrophe for DNB, the big state-owned bank was considering an appeal.