ING Groep NV is seeking buyers for its private-banking business

Discussion in 'Wall St. News' started by Debaser82, Jul 22, 2009.

  1. ING Groep NV is seeking buyers for its private-banking business in Europe and Asia, according to people familiar with the situation, the latest step by the financial-services firm to slim down after it was forced to turn to the Dutch government for aid last year.

    The sale process is at an early stage and any deal is likely several months away, the people said. Potential bidders for the division, which could be worth more than $1 billion, may include Credit Suisse Group, Standard Chartered PLC, as well as banks in Singapore and Australia, say people close to the process.

    ING, which had grown into a banking, investment and insurance giant, was hard hit during the financial crisis, with losses on real estate and other securities forcing it to seek a 10 billion euros ($14.2 billion) government lifeline. The firm is now narrowing its focus and expects to raise between 6 and 8 billion euros by selling between 10 and 15 units.

    ING officials declined to comment on the possible sale.

    ING's private-banking business has a total of 55 billion euros in client assets, spread over 15 countries. It caters to wealthy individuals including entrepreneurs, private investors and rich familes.

    ING posted a first-quarter net loss of 793 million euros, underscoring the firm's need to strengthen itself so it can ultimately pay back the Dutch government. That fact that it is pressing on with the private-banking sale now also indicates financial companies' demand for acquisitions may be returning as their outlook brightens. ING is also slashing jobs as part of a plan to eliminate 1 billion euros in costs this year.

    ING, which plans to exit 10 of the 48 countries it operates in, already agreed to sell ING Canada for 1.4 billion euros.

    ING's private-banking division helps wealthy Asian and European clients manage their fortunes. It also advises art collectors and leases yachts. It's headquartered in Amsterdam, with a large business in Switzerland.

    ING's private banking operation is relatively strong in Asian markets like Indonesia and the Philippines. Unlike the U.S. market, where boutique private-banking firms can be snapped up by acquisitive financial firms, Asian private banking is dominated by big global banks like UBS AG, Credit Suisse, and Deutsche Bank AG. Asia remains an attractive growth market for private banking because the region's economies have been less hard hit by the financial crisis.

    The private bank's assets under management in Asia declined to 11.4 billion euros at the end of the first quarter from 13.1 billion euros a year earlier. ING attributed that decline largely to negative market performance.

    Credit Suisse and Standard Chartered have both been growing in Asia by hiring more private bankers. Standard Charted also bought an American Express Co. private-banking unit in February 2008.