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ING to sell off more operations

ING NV, the Dutch bank and insurer, said today it plans to sell operations it says could raise up to 8 billion euro (US$10.6 billion).

The move, unveiled alongside a reshuffling of business units to simplify the company structure, is an increase from a previous target announced in January to raise €3 billion.

So far, ING has sold its Canadian operations for 1.4 billion euro.

"Next to a number of leading positions in key markets, a group of smaller businesses with no clear outlook for market leadership consumes a disproportionate amount of capital," the company said in a statement.

Shares rose 9.9 percent to 5.775 euro. They have had a wild ride, falling from above 25 euro a year ago and trading as low as 2.30 euro in March.

The company's statement Thursday didn't specify which business it would definitely sell or set any time frame for achieving the target. It also didn't say whether there was any interest from buyers.

ING said it now plans to focus mostly on European banking, with extra focus on Belgium and the Netherlands. However, it intends to continue offering both banking and insurance in Europe, Asia and the United States.

It said it doesn't plan to sell its online banking service, ING Direct, and that its life insurance businesses in China and Japan were "under review."

Incoming Chief Executive Jan Hommen was to address investors at a meeting later Thursday. His predecessor, Michel Tilmant, resigned in January after saying ING expected to post a large loss in the fourth quarter, which turned out to be a loss of 3.1 billion euro.

ING has received significant aid from the Dutch government since the financial crisis began. Last year it received a 10 billion euro investment lifeline to shore up its equity base.

And in January the state assumed most of the risk for 27.7 billion euro in troubled U.S. mortgage-backed securities ING owns.

ING said Thursday it has cut 3,500 jobs so far since announcing plans to cut 7,000 in January, around 5 percent of its work force. As of Thursday, ING said it employs 25,000.

Hommen, a former chief financial officer of both Philips Electronics and Alcoa, said that ING's tier 1 capital ratio - the most widely used measure of a bank's solvency - was 9.3 percent at year end.


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