MBK Said in Exclusive Talks to Buy ING’s Korean Insurance Unit

MBK Partners Ltd., a buyout firm formed by former Carlyle Group executives, entered exclusive talks with ING Groep NV (INGA) to buy its Korean life insurance operations, two people familiar with the matter said.

ING has ended exclusive negotiations with Seoul-based Tongyang Life Insurance Co. (082640), the people said, asking not to be identified because the discussions are confidential. Yonhap reported yesterday that MBK offered about 1.8 trillion won ($1.6 billion) for the business.

Selling the business to MBK would bring ING, the biggest Dutch financial-services company, closer to fulfilling its pledge to divest assets following a 2008 government bailout. ING failed to sell its Korean life insurance assets last year to KB Financial Group Inc., after the KB Financial board scrapped the plan. The Amsterdam-based firm had planned to raise about $2 billion from the sale.

Three calls to MBK Partners’ office in Seoul weren’t connected to executives and the company didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the discussions. Raymond Vermeulen, an Amsterdam-based spokesman for ING, declined to comment on the sale process.

ING said last month that it would sell its South Korean investment-management business to Macquarie Group Ltd. (MQG), Australia’s largest investment bank. The Dutch company agreed to sell its global insurance and investment-management operations to win European Union approval for bailouts in 2008 and 2009 and has since disposed of more than 25 assets for at least 20 billion euros ($26.6 billion).

MBK Partners, formed in 2005 by five former Carlyle executives led by Michael Kim, has $6.3 billion of assets under management and oversees 18 portfolio companies including Universal Studios Japan and New China Life Insurance Co., according to its website. The fund is considering a Singapore initial public offering for its holding in Taiwan’s China Network Systems Co., people familiar with the matter said last month.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jonathan Browning in Hong Kong at jbrowning9@bloomberg.net; Seonjin Cha in Seoul at scha2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Philip Lagerkranser at lagerkranser@bloomberg.net

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