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ING quarterly profit beats estimates

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ING Groep NV (INGA), the biggest Dutch financial-services company, reported fourth-quarter profit that exceeded analysts’ estimates as earnings at its banking division tripled.

ING rose as much as 6.1 percent in Amsterdam trading, the biggest gain in three months, after posting net income of 539 million euros ($735 million), above the average estimate of 254 million euros in a Bloomberg News survey of eight analysts.

The company is nearing the end of a restructuring program imposed by European Union regulators as a condition for a government bailout in 2008. It has until the end of 2016 to complete the sale of its European and Japanese insurance and investment management activities. Preparations to sell a stake in the European and Japan operations, to be named NN, in an initial public offering in 2014 are “on track” after their capital position was strengthened, ING said.

“We intend to go to market this year, assuming conditions are favorable,” Chief Executive Officer Ralph Hamers said in today’s statement.

The IPO could take place between the end of the second quarter and the fourth, he told reporters in Amsterdam today. As the disposal of its insurance unit nears, ING plans to outline financial goals for its banking unit, including dividend policy, at the end of March, he said.

The firm won’t propose a 2013 dividend as it first wants to complete repayment of a 10 billion euro capital injection it got from the state in 2008.

ING shares posted the biggest intraday gain since Nov. 6, and rose 3.9 percent to 10.57 euros by 5:11 p.m. in Amsterdam. The advance brings the gain this year to 4.6 percent and follows a more than 40 percent increase in 2013.

Fourth-quarter net income declined 64 percent from 1.48 billion euros a year before, when the company recorded 1.6 billion euros of gains on the sale of its Canadian online bank and Malaysian insurance operations.

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