Desperately seeking confidence: Fortis

26 09 2008

ResearchBlogging.orgIn response to continuing market rumors about its solvency, Belgian bank Fortis has issued a remarkable – and poorly written – press release (.pdf, reprinted verbatim in De Tijd) underlining “the solid position of the bank” and confirming speculation that the bank is preparing to put a “wider range of activities of assets” up for sale.

**UPDATE: Fortis nominates new CEO**

The tone of the press release is remarkably affirmative and confident. Usually, economic press releases make a sport out of hedging truth claims (see McLaren-Hankin 2008, Smart 2006) in an attempt to limit company liability if the unexpected happens (i.e.  if the company’s expectations do not materialize). Not here though: phrases like “customer moves have remained limited”, “concrete interest of potential buyers is indicated” and “Preparations are made to fully integrate the ABN AMRO Private Banking activities” are clearly targeted at “boost[ing] predictions in the face of apparent contradiction or doubt on the part of others” (Donohue 2006: 204).

Alas, investors were not convinced: Fortis again bled red ink as shares prices continued to fall. Here’s my prediction: this storm will not be weathered anytime soon. Expect more Fortis drama.

  • Donohue, James P. (2006). How to support a one-handed economist: The role of modalisation in economic forecasting. English for Specific Purposes 25 (2): 200-216. doi:10.1016/j.esp.2005.02.009
  • Y. McLaren-Hankin (2008). `We expect to report on significant progress in our product pipeline in the coming year’: hedging forward-looking statements in corporate press releases Discourse Studies, 10 (5), 635-654 DOI: 10.1177/1461445608094216
  • Smart, Graham (2006). Writing the Economy: Activity, Genre, and Technology in the World of Banking. London: Equinox Publishing.



One response

1 10 2008
The firm-investor communication process « Tom Van Hout

[…] I wonder how the language used in press releases affects investor sentiment. For instance, the press release Fortis issued a few days ago was clearly intended to boost investor confidence but I think the […]

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