SINGAPORE/AMSTERDAM, Sept 24 Julius Baer BAER.VX has dropped out of the race to buy ING's (ING.AS) private banking assets in Asia, leaving HSBC (HSBA.L) as the favourite, sources with knowledge of the deal told Reuters.
Despite most bids being in by Sept 3, ING has not yet identified a preferred bidder, two of the sources said, adding a deal is expected in October.
"Julius Baer is no more looking at Asia," said one of the sources with knowledge of the deal, adding HSBC is the strongest contender for these assets.
"They (Julius Baer) may be pursuing Europe," said the source, who declined to be identified because the talks were not public.
Singapore's DBS Group (DBSM.SI) had also bid for the Asian assets, sources have said.
ING, Julius Baer, HSBC and DBS declined to comment.
The secretive sale process is part of ING's drive to sell 6 billion euros to 8 billion euros in assets and exit 10 of the 48 countries where it does business.
ING got up to five bids for some or all of its private-banking assets, with an offer for the full package running close to $2 billion, sources familiar with the bidding process told Reuters earlier this month.
However, it is not clear if ING expects to get the same level of proceeds if it sells the units separately to different buyers.
(Reporting by Saeed Azhar in Singapore, Ben Berkowitz in Amsterdam, Victoria Howley in London, Jason Rhodes in Zurich and Michael Flaherty in Hong Kong; Editing by Neil Chatterjee)