ING Group is gauging the implications of the U.S. bank rescue aid plan announced earlier this month for its activities there, the Dutch banking and insurance group's next Chief Executive said in a newspaper interview on Saturday.
Shares in ING, which has already received Dutch government aid, fell to a more than 16-year low on Friday on concern it might miss debt interest payments with traders citing talk that the group could be nationalized.
ING has major activities in America, Jan Hommen, who will take over the group in April, told the Financieele Dagblad newspaper. On that basis, I would like to inquire about the current U.S. aid programs.
It was not yet clear whether U.S. Treasury's program would be eligible for foreign institutions in the United States.
ING spokesman Peter Jong confirmed the published comments, noting that ING was reviewing all of its global businesses. He added that Hommen is in the United States this weekend to review businesses there.
ING has extensive U.S. banking and insurance operation, including online bank ING Direct, as well as about half of its insurance business.
Possible scenarios for ING could include applying for U.S. aid, or determining that it could be at a competitive disadvantage there, or deciding the business could stay on course.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Treasury announced an overhauled $500 billion bank rescue plan that seeks to cleanse bad assets from banks' books, as well as a new $1 trillion lending support program.
Hommen noted, however, that ING's funding needs for 2009 were mostly covered. Earlier this week, ING reported a 3.7 billion euro ($4.65 billion) fourth-quarter loss.
ING shares closed on Friday near lows not seen since 1992, although analysts noted other European insurers also saw sharp declines.
The Dutch state injected 10 billion euros of capital into ING last October and also granted ING guarantees on 22 billion euros of risky U.S. credit assets. A Dutch Finance Ministry spokeswoman said ING was healthy and the ministry saw no need to help ING again.
ING issued 4 billion euros in state-guaranteed bonds earlier on Friday, as part of an earlier announced plan to raise a maximum of 10 billion euros. [nWEA8329]