ING targets $7 bn for Asia insurance unit

Written by Bloomberg | Updated: Mar 27 2012, 05:45am hrs
ING Group, the largest Dutch financial-services company, is seeking at least $7 billion for its Asian insurance business and has drawn interest from potential suitors including MetLife, said people with knowledge of the matter.

ING plans to distribute limited financial information on the assets by mid-April, said one of the people, who declined to be identified because the process is private. AIA Group, Prudential Financial, KB Financial Group and Manulife Financial are among other companies studying offers, the people said.

ING is under European Union orders to divest its entire insurance operations before the end of 2013 as a condition for approval of state aid. The firm earlier scrapped plans to create an Asian-European insurer in an initial public offering and said it may sell the Asian business separately, given its greater allure for buyers after European markets worsened.

Overall the assets are attractive, which you see in terms of investor interest, said Thomas Stoegner, a London-based analyst at Macquarie Group. Over 10 names are mentioned as potential bidders. That will be massively supportive for selling price.

INGs intention is probably to sell the unit in one piece because that is easier and more cost efficient, Stoegner said. Macquarie has an outperform rating on the stock.

AIA, Prudential Financial, MetLife, Manulife and KB Financial have hired advisers to study bids for the ING assets, the people said. Assicurazioni Generali SpA, Italys biggest insurer, and Singapore-based Great Eastern Holdings have also shown interest in the ING assets, two of the people said.

Auction of the Asian insurance unit may not include joint ventures in China and India, one person said. KB Financial, owner of South Koreas largest bank, said on March 23 that it was interested in buying INGs insurance business.