ING sells Asian insurance unit in £1.06bn deal

ING Groep edged closer to completing its year-and-a-half-old Asia divestment plan after private equity firm MBK Partners agreed to buy its South Korean insurance unit for total cash proceeds of 1.84 trillion won (£1.06bn).

Under the agreement announced yesterday, the bailed-out Dutch insurer will retain about a 10 per cent stake in the South Korean unit and allow MBK to use the ING brand for up to five years.

The sale of the South Korean unit will leave ING with its Japan insurance unit left to sell, bringing it closer to fulfilling its agreement with European regulators to offload more than 50 per cent of its Asian operations by the end of 2013.

Since its rescue in 2008, ING has dismantled its once-fashionable banking and insurance model and announced thousands of job cuts and other cost savings. ING has raised about €23bn (£19.7bn) in total from divesting insurance, investment management and other assets to repay state aid.

ING will own a 120bn won stake in the South Korean unit.

“I am convinced that with the support of MBK Partners, ING Life Korea will continue to grow its customer offering and build on its position as the fifth-largest insurance company in the Korean market,” Jan Hommen, CEO of ING Group, said in a statement.

“Through its 10 per cent stake, ING will be able to benefit from that growth potential,” he added.

The deal values ING Life Korea, the nation’s biggest foreign insurer, at 9.2 times fiscal year 2012 earnings and 0.73 times book value as of March 31, 2013, the statement added. South Korean life insurers on average trade at a price-to-book ratio of 0.83, according to Thomson Reuters data.

But ING will take an after-tax loss of €950m to be booked in the third quarter of 2013. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Established in 1987, ING Life Korea is South Korea’s largest foreign life insurer, with about 1.3m customers, more than 1,000 employees and approximately 6,800 tied agents. MBK, which is seeking about $2.6bn in a new private equity fund, will fund the deal with a 1 trillion won syndicated loan, It is the largest private equity firm in South Korea, with $8bn under management.