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ING is separating its banking and insurance

THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch bank and insurance group ING said on Thursday that it will undergo a complete overhaul. ING intends to manage its banking and insurance divisions separately, under the umbrella of the group.

The bank will separate its banking and insurance divisions and manage them separately, and also sell assets worth up to EUR 8 billion.

ING represetatives said the sales would affect 10 to 15 business areas in the course of the next few years, leaving the company focused on Europe, life insurance and pension savings.

ING’s banking division must become a ‘mainly European’ bank with an integrated balance sheet. The insurance division will focus on life insurances and pensions only. The Benelux is the most important market for ING, who will extend its activities in Poland, Romania and Turkey.  The company will pull out of Ukraine.

ING, which got a government capital injection of EUR 10 billion in 2008 to help it through the global financial crisis, said it aimed to “focus on fewer activities but more coherent and stronger ones.”

Investors have welcomed the announced measures. ING share prices jumped by 17.8 percent.

The asset sales will result in a group with substantial profitability and strong growth potential, chief executive Jan Hommen said in a statement.

ING, ranked among the top 20 world financial groups by market value, had previously targeted asset sales of EUR 2 to 3 billion.

Hommen added that more than half of the previously announced 7,000 job cuts to save EUR 1 billion had been achieved by late January.

ING reported a net loss of EUR 3.7 billion in the fourth quarter of last year, and for the full year it was in the red for EUR 729 million, compared with a 2007 net profit of EUR 9.2 billion.