Samsung Life says interested in ING Asia insurance business

Last Updated: Fri, Feb 24, 2012 04:23 hrs

South Korea's Samsung Life Insurance said it is interested in acquiring ING Groep's (ING.AS) Asia-Pacific insurance operation as part of its overseas expansion strategy.

Samsung's potential bid could heat up the race in the sale of ING's Asian insurance business, potentially Asia's second-biggest insurance sale ever.

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The country's top life insurer added in a regulatory filing on Friday, however, that no decision had been made yet.

Samsung Life, part of the country's top conglomerate Samsung Group, has said the company would accelerate its overseas businesses, looking to expand in Asian regions, especially Southeast Asia.

It is currently running operations in China and Thailand.

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Analysts said it was possible that Samsung and Korean banking group KB Financial Group (105560.KS) could form a consorted bid to break the bulk of the Dutch financial group's Asian insurance businesses into non-Korean and Korean.

Korean financial services group KB is only keen on picking up ING's Korean assets as a means to explore avenues in the non-banking sector to diversify its income which is heavily skewed toward its banking business Kookmin Bank.

KB Chairman Euh Yoon-dae told reporters that the company would be willing to join hands with Samsung Life if Samsung proposes a tie-up.

"Samsung may want to boost their bancassurance sales through KB's wide network. Sometimes they need collaborations for their distribution channels," said Lee Chul-ho, an analyst at Korea Investment & Securities.

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Samsung cut its October-December quarter profit by more than half from a year ago, posting 145.6 billion won in net profit, a recent regulatory filing showed.

ING announced last month that it was considering options to dispose of its Asia insurance and investment management businesses separately from its European businesses, a move that would help it pay back the 2008 bailout it received from the Dutch government.

Reuters previously reported that ING was planning to sell its three Asian insurance joint ventures, including one with KB Financial separately from its other Asia assets.

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After the announcement, shares in Samsung Life were up 0.45 percent as of 0137 GMT, almost in line with the broader market's 0.3 percent gain.

ING has operations in seven Asian markets - China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand. Japan and South Korea are more mature, slower-growth markets.

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