As ING Group continues to sell off its overall Asian insurance operations in order to repay part of the USD $7 billion in bailout funds that it received from the European Union in 2008, the Dutch company is also getting ready to offload its separate ventures in India.
The news comes as no surprise to many as the sale is part of ING's global restructuring plan. The plan entails that by 2013, ING will cut its balance sheet by approximately USD $751 billion by selling off many of its businesses outside of Europe, including those in Asia and America. Thus far, ING have been looking to sell a number of its Asian insurance businesses (not including those in India), such as those in South Korea and South East Asia, as a single unit.
A number of factors, including the fact that the firm deals with local Indian players, means that ING has decided to sell its Indian businesses separately. This means that the imminent sale of its three Indian companies will take a while longer as ING are reportedly focusing all its efforts towards getting rid of its other Asian insurance business which are valued between $6 and $7 billion US dollars.
The creation of ING Vysya Bank, one of the three ING companies, was the first merger between an Indian bank (in this case Vysya Bank) and a foreign group. ING currently holds 44% stake in ING Vysya bank, with other shareholders including Aberdeen Asset Management, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup. ING also have an investment management company in the country that is also up for grabs. The company, ING Investment Management India, has a number of interested bidders including Pramerica, and South Korean company, Mirae.
ING Life India is ING's third company in India. Due to Indian laws that state that a foreign owner can only own 26% stake in any Indian insurance firm, ING are not the majority shareholders. It does however have management control of ING Life India. The majority share holder in the insurance company, formed in 2002, was initially GMR Industries. GMR then sold its stake to Indian battery manufacturer, Exide Industries who now hold a 50% stake in the company, making it the majority shareholder.
While the life insurance company did report increases in its premium three months in a row from January to March, at the start of the new fiscal year in April it saw its premium collection take a huge plunge and drop to Rs14.09 crore (US$4.05 million).
What is even more worrying for ING Life India is that Exide Industries, the major shareholder, is also reportedly looking to sell their stake in the venture. This was almost the case a year ago, but Exide opted to stay on. However, following the recent news of ING's decision to sell, it seems that Exide have now followed suit. With both sides looking to sell, the future looks uncertain for the company as it will have to look for a new foreign and domestic partner or opt for a merger.
A number of insurance companies have expressed an interest in buying up ING's 26% stake. They include insurers like Samsung Life, Manulife and Japanese company, Sumitomo. However, as none of the interested companies currently have a presence in India, before purchasing the stake they have to find an Indian partner to enter the market with.
ING Life India operates two distribution channels, Tied Agency and Alternate Channel. The Tied Agency channel has over 30,000 life insurance advisors, while the Alternate Channel contains the company's bancassurance (BIM) partnership with banks such as ING Vysya Bank.ING are not the only company selling its Asian operations. Struggling British firm, Aviva have also announced plans to sell its Malaysian operations as the economic crisis' aftermath continues to affect insurance companies. Insurance Companies Mentioned ING Formed in 1991, Dutch institution, ING, is a group that specializes in a number of financial services including insurance. It currently has a presence in more than 45 countries with a client base of approximately 85 million individuals.