NETHERLANDS - Rabobank says it may bid for ABN Amro’s property development subsidiary Bouwfonds when it comes up for sale in 2006.

Bank spokesman Ernst Moeksis said the bank would not rule out a bid for the Netherlands’ largest residential real estate firm, although it was “too early to speculate on if and how”.

The bank, which recently appointed a real estate director to beef up its strategy, is looking to expand its project management business in order to boost its position in the Dutch market.

Otherwise, interest from potential domestic bidders has been conspicuous by its absence. ING Real Estate would not comment on specific acquisition plans but dismissed a suggestion that it could use Bouwfonds to develop its home market.

Despite its global reach, ING Real Estate does not have overwhelming market share in Dutch real estate. Nor, it seems, is it planning to gain one.

ING spokeswoman Dorothy Hellenius said the firm was “satisfied with its position in the Dutch market” and planned to focus instead on other European markets, the US and Asia. The firm last year significantly increased its investment in Korean real estate through a joint vehicle with Samsung Life and ING Life.

Bouwfonds’ size may put off all but the largest financial institutions. But equally off putting may be the fact that it has already announced plans to transfer its profitable residential mortgage business to ABN Amro.

Credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s forecast a 40% fall in annual net profits and a 75% year-on-year drop in total assets as a result of the transfer.

ABN Amro, which said it is shedding the firm because it falls outside its “mid-market” strategy, has so far declined to put a price tag on the business. But uncertainty over support for the business from the new parent, combined with the loss of the residential mortgage business, led S&P to lower its rating on Bouwfonds.