Orix Corp., a Japanese provider of financial services ranging from leasing to insurance, is the remaining bidder in talks to buy Rabobank Groep’s asset-management unit, Robeco Groep NV, people with knowledge of the talks said.
Orix was competing with Macquarie Group Ltd., Australia’s largest investment bank, and buyout firm Permira Advisers LLP, which teamed with Affiliated Managers Group Inc., two of the people said. Rabobank, the biggest Dutch retail lender, and Orix may make a final decision in coming months, said the people, who asked not to be identified because negotiations are private. Robeco may fetch more than 2 billion euros ($2.7 billion), two of the people said last October.
Rabobank is divesting Robeco to help reach self-imposed capital requirements as Europe’s banks bolster their balance sheets after the financial crisis. Orix, a Tokyo-based finance and leasing company, is buying assets from European financial-services firms as they seek to strengthen capital.
Rabobank, based in Utrecht, Netherlands, is among the highest-rated privately owned banks. It would like to attain a core tier 1 ratio, a measure of a bank’s financial strength, of 14 percent by 2016, Chairman Piet Moerland said in December. Smaller domestic rival SNS Reaal NV was taken over by the Netherlands on Friday after real estate losses brought the fourth-largest Dutch lender to the brink of collapse, the country’s second banking nationalization since 2008.
Rabobank expects next year it will have to pay about one third of a 1 billion-euro charge the Dutch government imposed on its lenders to help pay for the bailout. The lender had a core tier ratio of 12.7 percent at the end of June, already meeting stricter Basel III capital requirements that will be phased in from 2013.
Rabobank spokesman Rene Loman said the lender is considering strategic options for Robeco and declined to comment further. Representatives of Macquarie and Permira also declined to comment.
Rabobank, which said in April it’s reviewing options for its asset-management unit, kicked off the auction process in July, people said at the time. The Dutch lender and Japanese firm are willing to walk away from the deal if they can’t agree on price, said the people.
Robeco, founded in 1929 and a full subsidiary of Rabobank since 2001, managed 179 billion euros in assets at the end of June, of which 51 percent was for institutional customers. It has about 1,600 employees in 14 countries, according to its website. It reported a profit of 97 million euros in the first six months of 2012, down from 105 million euros in the same period a year earlier.
Its operations include Chicago-based fund manager Harbor Capital Advisors Inc., with about 45 billion euros in assets under management and Rotterdam-based Transtrend; an asset manager trading on the basis of quantitative analysis that has about 7 billion euros in assets; and a U.S. and Dutch asset-management unit.
In September, Orix opened a unit in Brazil to seek acquisitions in South America. Orix’s operations include insurance, aircraft and auto leasing, as well as the Buffaloes baseball team, based in Osaka and Kobe, Japan.