Ameriprise said near deal for ING asset management unit

Acquisition would extend Asian push; talks on price ongoing

Sep 26, 2012 @ 8:39 am

Ameriprise Financial Inc. (AMP), the Minneapolis-based insurer and money manager founded in 1894, is in advanced talks to buy most of ING Groep NV (INGA)'s asset management business in Asia, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

The companies are still negotiating on price and an announcement may come in two to three weeks, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified as the talks are private.

ING's Asian asset-management business is worth about 150 million euros ($194 million), according to a Sept. 4 estimate by Cor Kluis, an analyst at Rabobank International. The company is under European Union orders to sell its insurance and investment management businesses before the end of 2013, after receiving state aid in 2008 and 2009.

Ameriprise has been expanding in Asia through its Threadneedle Investments asset management unit, which oversaw 74 billion pounds ($120 billion) as of June 30, according to its website. Threadneedle said in 2010 it hired former Merrill Lynch & Co. banker Raymundo Yu as chairman of its business in the Asia-Pacific region.

“ING has been surprisingly successful in selling assets,” said Werner Schirmer, an analyst at Landesbank Baden- Wuerttemberg in Stuttgart, Germany, who has a “hold” rating on the stock. “It's a good strategy to focus on the core businesses.”

ING in August announced the $3.16 billion sale of its Canadian online bank to Bank of Nova Scotia. The Dutch company also sold its U.S. online bank to Capital One Financial Corp. for about $9 billion as well as its Latin American insurance operations.

A deal for the Asian asset-management unit would exclude ING's joint ventures in the region, the person said. ING spokeswoman Victorina de Boer and Paul Johnson, a spokesman for Ameriprise, declined to comment on the talks.

United Overseas Bank Ltd. (UOB), Nikko Asset Management Co., Manulife Financial Corp. (MFC) and Macquarie Group Ltd. (MQG) were among potential bidders that showed interest in the business earlier, people familiar with the matter said in May.

The Asian asset management unit had a book value of 200 million euros, ING said in a presentation on Aug. 8. ING wrote down about 180 million euros of goodwill at its Korean investment management division in the second quarter.

Ameriprise was also among bidders for asset-management divisions being sold by Deutsche Bank AG, Germany's biggest lender, people familiar with the matter said earlier this year.

(Bloomberg News)

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