The EU has granted final approval to the joint venture between Fortis, an integrated financial services provider, and Banco Comercial Portugues, Portugal's biggest private bank. The deal will give Fortis a 51% stake in, and management control of, the Portuguese bank-insurer's operations.

The new joint venture, Millenniumbcp Fortis Insurance Group, will become Portugal’s market leader in life insurance. This leading position is due to Banco Comercial Portugues (BCP)’s previous strong bancassurance activities, which in 2003 registered E1.3 billion of premiums of which E1.1 billion were life premiums, representing a market share of 21%.

The parties aim to finalize the agreement and transfer of ownership in the coming weeks.

Banco Comercial Portugues is the leading private financial group in Portugal, with total assets of E68.5 billion, net income of E438 million in 2003 and E239 million for the 1st half-year 2004. The bank has more than three million customers in Portugal and over 1,000 bank branches, operating under the retail brand name Millennium bcp.