SEOUL/HONG KONG May 24 Kyobo Life Insurance,
South Korea's third-largest insurer, said on Friday it had made
a bid for a controlling stake in ING's South Korean
insurance unit, breathing new life into a delayed deal
previously valued at roughly $2 billion.
Kyobo, whose investors include Ontario Teachers' Pension
Plan, Singapore sovereign fund GIC and private equity
firm Affinity Equity Partners, is set to compete against the
country's second-largest insurer Hanwha Life Insurance Co Ltd
, which is expected to submit its own bid, according
to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.
Further bids are also expected from private equity firm MBK
Partners, and from Tong Yang Life Co Ltd backed by
Seoul-based private equity Vogo Fund, separate sources with
direct knowledge told Reuters.
The sources declined to be identified as the bidding process
The deal is set to be one of the largest M&A deals in Asia's
fourth-largest economy this year, although the final value
depends on the size of the stake that ING sells.
ING is only required to sell more than 50 percent in the
unit by 2013 and divest the remaining interest by the end of
2016, but wants to sell as much as possible, sources said.
The sale of a stake in its Korea insurance unit will bring
ING Groep NV closer to fulfilling its agreement with European
regulators to sell more than 50 percent of its Asian operations
by the end of 2013.
KB Financial Group Inc had been lined up to buy
the unit for roughly $2.1 billion last year, but dropped its
After last year's sale fell through, seller ING has asked
bidders to attach bank letters of credit to their bids as a way
to guarantee financial backing, a buy-side source and a local
bank executive in charge of corporate financing previously told
ING Life Insurance Korea Ltd is the country's fifth-largest
life insurer with 22.7 trillion won ($20.11 billion) in assets
as of end-2012.
An ING Groep spokeswoman was unavailable for comment.
Officials at Hanwha Life, Tong Yang Life and MBK Partners
declined comment or could not be reached.
Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan are advising ING
on the sale. ($1 = 1128.5750 Korean won)
(Reporting by Joyce Lee in SEOUL, Denny Thomas and Stephen
Aldred in HONG KONG. Editing by Jane Merriman)