Blackstone Said to Bid for ING Asia With Ex-AIA Head

Blackstone Group LP (BX) is teaming up with Mark Wilson, the former head of AIA Group Ltd. (1299), and other investors in a bid for ING Groep NV (INGA)’s Asian insurance business, said two people with knowledge of the matter.

The group, which includes reinsurer Swiss Re Ltd., may make an offer of 5 billion euros to 6 billion euros ($7.35 billion) by July 16, the deadline for final bids, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the process is private. ING agreed to divest its insurance and asset management operations before the end of 2013 as a condition of receiving state aid.

The company, led by Chief Executive Officer Jan Hommen, opted to sell the Asian units separately from the European ones as the region’s debt crisis damped prospects for divestments there. It is seeking at least $7 billion for the Asian business, people with knowledge of the matter said in March. Wilson, the ex-AIA chief who is also a former executive at U.S. insurer American International Group Inc. (AIG), would provide management expertise, said one of the people.

The Blackstone-led group may be competing with bidders including Richard Li, son of Hong Kong’s richest man, the person said. AIA Group, Metlife Inc. (MET), Manulife Financial Corp. (MFC) and Korea Life Insurance Co. were among companies that made offers for the ING unit, people familiar with the matter said May 21. It isn’t clear that the Blackstone-led group has any advantage in the bidding and no final decision has been made.

AIG, the insurer bailed out by the U.S. government, sold most of Hong Kong-based AIA in an initial public offering in 2010. Wilson was replaced at AIA after clashing with AIG CEO Robert Benmosche over how to divest the Hong Kong-based business, people familiar with the matter said at the time.

Officials at ING and Blackstone declined to comment on the process. A spokesman for Swiss Re (SREN) was not immediately available for comment after normal office hours.

The Dutch company is also selling its asset management business in Asia, which may be worth about 500 million euros, according to an April 19 estimate by Hans Pluijgers, an Amsterdam-based analyst at Credit Agricole Cheuvreux.

By Cathy Chan, Aaron Kirchfeld and Jason Kelly

Courtesy of Bloomberg News

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