Manulife, Metlife submit bids for ING Asia sale: sources

Sat May 19, 2012 1:33am EDT
 
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By Denny Thomas

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Manulife Financial Corp (MFC.TO: Quote) and Metlife (MET.N: Quote) are among the companies that have submitted first round bids for ING's entire Asia life insurance business, sources said on Saturday, in what could be the largest Asia M&A insurance deal ever.

ING's long awaited sale of Asian life insurance and the asset management units will help the Dutch bancassurer to partly repay the 3 billion euros ($3.81 billion) of state aid plus the 50 percent premium it still owes the Dutch government.

The bids were submitted late on Friday and the indicative offers ranged between 6-7 billion euros ($7.6-$8.9 billion), according to one source with knowledge of the matter. Of the eight to 10 companies that sent offers, a shortlist will emerge by the end of May, the source said, adding that five bidders expressed interest for the whole Asia division while the rest sought parts of the business.

Still, some suitors have developed cold feet, as demonstrated by Samsung Life Insurance's (032830.KS: Quote) decision on Thursday to pull out of the race at the last minute. South Korea's Kyobo Life has also dropped out, and it was also unclear whether Prudential Financial Corp (PRU.N: Quote) took part in the first round.

Prudential Financial was seen as one of the strongest contenders to buy the whole Asian unit, and its absence from the process could be a setback to competitive dynamics of the auction, sources said.

A sale topping $7 billion would rank as Asia's top insurance M&A deal and add to a flurry of financial institutions deals being launched in Asia this year.

After receiving a government bailout in 2008, ING has sold 15.2 billion euros worth of assets across the world. The Asian sales would figure among the top two deals from ING's stable.

Asian insurer AIA Group Ltd (1299.HK: Quote) and Korea's KB Financial Group (105560.KS: Quote) also submitted first round bids, sources said. Korea Life Insurance Co (088350.KS: Quote), Canada's Sun Life Financial Inc (SLF.TO: Quote), and Switzerland's Zurich Insurance Group ZURN.VX, were also expected to submit offers.   Continued...