A branch of the Dutch bank ABN Amro in Antwerp
A branch of the Dutch bank ABN Amro in Antwerp - 
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Dutch bank ABN Amro now has three European banks who want to make a joint bid for the company. That could pose problems for the British bank Barclays that ABN had been talking to for weeks. Stephen Beard is our European correspondent. I asked him where that leaves Barclays.

STEPHEN BEARD: Barclays and ABN Amro have now set themselves a deadline of this Wednesday to agree. Both sides are under a lot of pressure because a rival suitor has appeared on the scene, a consortium including the Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander of Spain and the Dutch-Belgian bank Fortis.

THOMAS: Have they made a higher offer than Barclays?

BEARD: They've indicated that they may be prepared to pay more than Barclays but they haven't given a specific figure at this stage. They've asked to have a closer look at ABN Amro's books and they've made it clear that their plan is to break up the group, with Royal Bank of Scotland taking ABN's U.S. arm, that's La Salle, and the other members of the consortium taking other bits of the Dutch group.

THOMAS: Now if they do offer more money, does that mean that Barclays may have to step out?

BEARD: Yes. It's very difficult for Barclays because they've spent almost a month hard bargaining with ABN Amro. The last thing they wanted was a rival suitor. Either they're gonna have to pay a lot more money, or they're going to have to drop out of the bidding and lose this on and unfortunately for Barclays, all this coincides with ABN Amro releasing some figures today which indicate they're doing much better than anyone expected.

THOMAS: Thanks a lot Stephen.

BEARD: OK Mark.

THOMAS: European correspondent Stephen Beard.