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Manulife, Korea Life Said to Bid for ING’s Asia Insurance Unit

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July 16 (Bloomberg) -- Manulife Financial Corp., Korea Life Insurance Co. and KB Financial Group Inc. are among firms that made second-round bids for ING Groep NV’s Asian insurance operations, said three people with knowledge of the matter.

Manulife offered to buy most of the regional unit, while Korea Life bid for ING’s Southeast Asian business, said the people, asking not to be identified because the information is private. KB Financial made an offer for the South Korean operations, one of the people said. The latest offers are binding, the people said.

ING, led by Chief Executive Officer Jan Hommen, opted to sell the Asian units separately from the European ones as Europe’s debt crisis damped prospects for divestments there. AIA Group Ltd. also plans to submit a bid by today’s deadline, a person with knowledge of the matter said on June 12.

ING’s Asian life insurance operations are spread across the region, with larger businesses in Korea, Japan, Malaysia and Hong Kong, Credit Suisse Group AG analysts Arjan van Veen and Frances Feng wrote in a Feb. 14 report.

Blackstone Group LP is teaming up with Mark Wilson, the former head of AIA, and other investors including reinsurer Swiss Re to prepare a bid for the Asian business, said two people with knowledge of the matter last week. The group, which includes reinsurer Swiss Re Ltd., may make an offer of 5 billion euros to 6 billion euros ($7.3 billion), said one of the people.

J.C. Flowers & Co. LLC, the investment firm founded by financier J. Christopher Flowers, is also considering a bid and is interested in some Asian markets such as Japan, two people with knowledge of the matter said in March.

Officials at Korea Life and KB Financial didn’t respond to phone calls seeking comment. Spokesmen at Manulife and ING declined to comment on the deal.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cathy Chan in Hong Kong at kchan14@bloomberg.net

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

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