October 18, 2012

ING Could Sell Asian Units for $2.2B

Son of wealthy businessman Li Ka-shing said to be buying Hong Kong and Thai insurance units

ING Groep was said by sources to be close to an agreement to sell its Hong Kong and Thai insurance businesses to Richard Li for some $2.2 billion.

Bloomberg reported Thursday that Li, son of Asia’s third richest man, was said to be in final negotiations with ING over the deal and the announcement could be made as early as Friday. According to the sources, the Thai business was probably to be valued at less than $200 million while the Hong Kong business was likely to be set at $2.1 billion.

ING has been working to comply with European Union regulator orders to divest itself of assets so that it can satisfy conditions of its bailouts, totaling some 10 billion euros ($13 billion), from the government in 2008 and 2009. As it does so, it’s also selling banking assets so that it can more quickly repay a remaining 3 billion euros with premiums.

Among the bailout conditions is a requirement to sell both its insurance business and its investment management business, with both divestitures to be completed before the end of 2013. It reached an agreement earlier this month to sell off its Malaysia insurance business unit to AIA Group for $1.7 billion.

Just in the last two months ING has said it reached agreements to sell its Canadian online bank for $3.16 billion, its U.K. Internet business and a 33% stake in China Merchants Fund, an investment management joint venture. In September it also sold off 54 million shares of Virginia-based Capital One Financial Corp., which brought in around $3 billion.

Li, who is backed by his father, Li Ka-shing, in his business efforts, has previously taken advantage of the opportunity presented by financial companies selling assets to pay off bailouts. In March of 2010, his Pacific Century Group bought $68 billion investment manager PineBridge Investments from American International Group for $500 million. AIG was selling assets to pay back a U.S. government bailout totaling $182.3 billion.

Li is also chairman of PCCW Ltd. and controls HKT Trust and HKT Ltd. and Pacific Century Premium Developments Ltd. In 2007, he sold his holdings in Hong Kong insurer Pacific Century Insurance Holdings Ltd. to what was then Fortis, now called Ageas.

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