* Reclassifies Asian insurance as "held for sale"
* Asian insurance operations are worth about $7 billion
* Q2 net profit 1.17 bln euros vs 1.34 bln forecast
* Shares down 2 pct vs 0.4 pct fall in insurance index
By Sara Webb
AMSTERDAM, Aug 8 Dutch banking and insurance
group ING now expects a quick sale of parts of its $7 billion
Asian insurance business as it seeks to repay state aid and meet
European requirements for its 2008 state bail-out, its chief
executive said on Wednesday.
ING is also preparing to list its European and U.S.
insurance units on stock markets as part of the restructuring
that will break apart its once fashionable bancassurer business
"The sales process for our insurance and investment
management businesses in Asia is on track," Jan Hommen told a
results conference call.
"You will see some units go quicker than others, joint
ventures take more time (to sell) ... Certain things will go
relatively quickly," he said.
The group got 10 billion euros ($12.4 billion) of state aid
during the banking crisis four years ago and is now having to
sell assets to meet the conditions set by the European
Commission for its bailout and to repay the Dutch government.
But a person close to the situation told Reuters that
Canadian insurer Manulife and AIA, Asia's
third-biggest insurer, are the only bidders left who might want
to take on ING's entire Asian insurance unit - excluding ING's
annuities business in Japan - and they have put in unattractive
That leaves the scenario of a three-way split of ING's
insurance assets into Southeast Asia, South Korea and the
attractive pieces of the Japanese business, a strategy which
could net ING a higher overall price and which could speed up
the divestment process, the source said.
ING reclassified its Asian insurance and investment
management operations as "held for sale" when it reported its
second-quarter results earlier on Wednesday.
"We think the reclassification of Asia into 'discontinued
operations' suggests that one or more transactions are
imminent," Deutsche Bank analyst Spencer Horgan said in a note.
ING was disappointed by the bids for the Korean operations,
nervous about Japan, and happy with the interest in the
Southeast Asian business, one person familiar with the process
told Reuters on Wednesday.
"They are not in a big hurry to sell the asset management
business," the source added.
A second source said that ING is keen to find a solution for
Japan before finalising buyers for its South Korea and Southeast
ING's chief executive declined to comment.
Earlier on Wednesday the group reported lower than expected
earnings as its bank was hit by losses and provisions on loans,
mainly in Spain and Greece, two countries at the centre of the
euro zone debt crisis, and its insurance unit was hurt by a weak
performance in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, or
Net profit fell 22 percent to 1.17 billion euros, below the
lowest forecast given in a Reuters poll of analysts. ING shares
were down 2 percent by 1158 GMT, trailing a 0.4 percent fall in
the STOXX Europe 600 Insurance index and 0.1 percent
fall in the bnking sector index.