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Belgium sells European Commission HQ for nearly 640 mn euros

BRUSSELS: Cash-strapped Belgium is nearly 640 million euros richer after selling the European Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters building to BNP-Paribas-Fortis bank and AG Insurance, a report said Wednesday.

The giant metal-clad Berlaymont dominates the area around the Schuman district in Brussels which is home to many of the main European Union institutions.

Futuristic when built in the 1960s as a symbol of European resurgence, the Belgian government sold the building to the Commission in 2004 for some 553 million euros on a 27-year lease, L’Echo said.

The business daily said BNP-Paribas-Fortis and AG Insurance will pay Belgium 636 million euros for the 18 years remaining.

In 2031, at the end of the lease, the Commission has the option to buy the building, offering a potentially large pay off for the two companies.

The sale proceeds mean total Belgian state debt will fall below the 100 percent of Gross Domestic Product threshold — an improvement the Commission itself may welcome even if it still leaves the country well short of the 60 percent EU limit.

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