AMSTERDAM -(Dow Jones)- Dutch financial-services company ING Groep NV (INGA.AE) Monday confirmed that it is in talks with a number of potential bidders to sell its real-estate investment business, but declined to comment on media reports it is close to striking a deal.
ING said the talks may result in one or more deals and that "any speculation on scope, pricing and conditions of possible transactions would be premature." It said it would make a further announcement when appropriate.
The statement came after the Financial Times reported Friday that U.S.-based property manager and consultant CB Richard Ellis Group Inc. (CBG) has emerged as the favorite to acquire at least a majority of the real-estate investment arm, known as ING REIM.
Citing people close to the negotiations, the FT wrote that a possible acquisition would be valued at around EUR1 billion and that a deal may be struck in the next few weeks.
The newspaper, which named Vornado Realty Trust (VNO), and real-estate brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. (JLL) as rival bidders, wrote that it wasn't clear if the talks will result in the sale of all or most of ING REIM.
An ING spokeswoman declined to comment on the report.
ING REIM, which suffered heavy losses in the financial crisis, was put up for sale last year when ING said it was evaluating strategic options for the business.
The unit has roughly EUR65 billion in assets under management and operates in 20 countries on four continents. ING's real-estate financing and project development won't be sold.
Analysts say a sale of ING REIM may help it repay the state and allow it to focus more on its banking and insurance activities.
ING was bailed out twice by the Dutch government during the financial crisis and still has to redeem EUR5 billion plus a EUR2.5 billion penalty.
To allay competition concerns, the European Commission has ordered ING to sell off a large number of assets in coming years.
The biggest divestment will be ING's insurance arm, which is planned to be sold through two initial public offerings. Other disposals in the pipeline include WestlandUtrecht Bank NV, the Netherlands' fifth-largest retail bank in assets, and ING Direct USA, an online retail bank.
At 1623 GMT, ING shares traded were down 0.1% at EUR7.80, in line with the AEX market in Amsterdam.
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