Julius Baer has looked at the private banking assets Dutch bank ING is putting up for sale and is open to discussing a deal, the bank said, clarifying a press report that said Bear was no longer interested.

It's a dossier that we have studied and we remain open to discussions, a spokesman for Julius Bear told Reuters, correcting remarks that appeared in Italian financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore on Sunday.

It was the first time Julius Baer, which has kept tight-lipped on ING, confirmed an interest.

Sources close to the ING bidding process have told Reuters Julius Baer was the preferred bidder for ING.

Il Sole 24 Ore had quoted Julius Baer Chief Executive Boris Collardi as saying the Swiss wealth manager had looked at the ING dossier but was not interested. Cash-strapped ING got up to five bids for some or all of its private-banking assets, with an offer for the full package running close to $2 billion, sources familiar with the bidding process told Reuters earlier this month.

The paper quoted Collardi as saying he studied quite a few other dossiers for possible acquisitions, but would not name them.

Asked about Italy, Collardi said: Italy is important. Julius Bear has been directly present there for a long time, and recently we have bought Alpha Sim. We are looking around.

Asked about the outlook for the bank, he said to Il Sole 24 Ore: We are able to sustain growth as internally as by acquisitions. I think we'll have a chance to demonstrate it soon.

(Writing by Lisa Jucca and Svetlana Kovalyova; Editing by Maureen Bavdek)