Amsterdam: Dutch bancassurer ING will not be launching a stock market flotation for its insurance operations any time soon, citing turbulent financial markets, adding that trade buyers are expressing interest.
European Commission regulators seeking payback for the state bailout the bank received in the financial crisis have insisted ING dispose of its €19 billion ($27 billion) insurance business by the end of 2013.
“This is not a good time to do an IPO now. Markets are not receptive. Maybe they will be in the future,” ING chief executive Jan Hommen said on a results day that delivered better-than-expected second-quarter profits.
ING will continue with its plans for two separate initial public offerings (IPOs), one for its US insurance operations, the other for its combined European and Asian business. But Hommen acknowledged that trade sales are a possibility.
“We cannot stop people from calling us. They do ... and we talk to them,” Hommen said.
Investment bankers told Reuters this week that a trade sale could well net a bigger return. Last month, ING announced the sale of most of its Latin American insurance and investment management business.
“We can’t rule out that someone makes an offer. That can happen. We know that and if it does we’ll have to look at it. We don’t rule that out,” Patrick Flynn, ING’s chief financial officer, told Reuters Insider when asked about further trade sales of its insurance operations.
Dutch insurer Delta Lloyd said on Thursday it was interested in ING’s Belgian insurance operations, confirming earlier media reports.
ING said on Thursday it took a €310 million hit on its Greek sovereign bond holdings, holding back a rise in second-quarter net profit, which still beat expectations.
ING reported second-quarter net profit rose 24.4% from a year ago to €1.5 billion, thanks to a strong recovery of profits at its insurance unit, and above analysts’ average estimate of €1.3 billion.
ING shares jumped more than 5% to €7.16 a piece on the better-than-expected results. The broader Amsterdam market was up about 1%.
Private sector investors have agreed to take a 21% loss on Greek sovereign bonds maturing before 2020 as part of a Greek bailout agreed by European leaders last month. ING is one of the participating institutions.
French bank BNP Paribas has taken a €534 million charge, while Societe Generale recorded a €395 million pretax hit. ING had about €1.4 billion of Greek state debt at the end of March.
The Dutch bank said it would not pay an interim dividend, in line with analyst expectations, citing an uncertain financial environment, “increasing regulatory requirements”, and its aim to repay Dutch state aid received in 2008.
ING still needs to repay €4.5 billion to the state, which includes the final amount owed plus a 50% premium. It has said it plans to repay in full by May 2012.