ING cutting 2,400 jobs

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INGchief

Reuters.

ING chief executive Jan Hommen.

Amsterdam - ING Groep NV, the largest Dutch financial-services company, reported profit that missed analysts’ estimates on restructuring costs as it announced another 2,400 job reductions.

The shares slumped in Amsterdam.

Fourth-quarter net income was 1.43 billion euros ($1.92 billion) compared with 1.19 billion euros a year earlier, ING said in a statement.

That missed the 1.63 billion-euro median estimate of 12 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

It incurred 643 million euros in special items after tax, including expenses for the job cuts announced today.

ING also set aside more money for bad loans and reported a weaker capital ratio as it repaid a government bailout.

Chief executive officer Jan Hommen, 69, is eliminating 1,400 jobs in the Netherlands and 1,000 in Belgium, adding to the 2,350 cuts in commercial banking and insurance announced in November, as he aims to reduce costs by 1 billion euros a year by 2015.

“Overall the picture doesn’t look rosy,” said Benoit Petrarque, an Amsterdam-based analyst at Kepler Capital Markets.

“It looks like there will be continuing pressure on the income side from low interest rates and lengthening of the funding profile, while operating expenses are not shrinking much despite all cost cutting efforts.”

Share Slide

ING fell 3.3 percent to 6.70 euros at 2:36 p.m. in Amsterdam, heading for the lowest level in three months and giving the company a market value of 26 billion euros.

The drop exceeded the 0.3 percent decline for banks in the Stoxx Europe 600 Index and a 0.2 percent decrease for Europe’s benchmark gauge for insurance companies.

The company said underlying operating expenses will probably decrease to 8.8 billion euros by 2015 from 8.9 billion euros in 2012 as cost savings and lower impairments are largely offset by inflation and regulatory costs.

The job losses announced today will mainly affect workers in IT and call centres as customers switched to new technologies for banking transactions faster than expected, Hommen told reporters today.

In the Netherlands the number of transactions via mobile phones or the Internet rose to 756 million in 2012 from 387 million in 2008, ING said in a presentation.

Transactions through branches, phone calls or mail dropped to 146 million from 300 million.

“Times are obviously difficult,” said Corne Aben, who helps manage about 1 billion euros of assets including ING shares at Amsterdam-based Optimix Vermogensbeheer NV.

“The cost-cutting announcements are incrementally positive, especially as they seem related to a structural shift. Hommen is clearly executing the announced strategy step by step.”

Capital Concerns

ING’s core Tier 1 capital ratio, a key measure of financial strength, dropped to 11.9 percent at the end of December from 12.1 percent in the third quarter, as the company repaid the Netherlands 1.13 billion euros in aid and premiums.

The firm had “less benefits from de-risking than we had anticipated,” Jan Willem Weidema, an Amsterdam-based analyst at ABN Amro Bank NV, said by e-mail.

“Capital ratios somewhat disappointed.” ABN had forecast a core Tier 1 ratio of 12.4 percent, he said.

Underlying pretax profit at ING’s banking operations slid 72 percent to 184 million euros, hurt by a loss of 126 million euros on the sale of southern European bonds.

That reduced risk- weighted assets by 1 billion euros. The firm set aside 588 million euros for so-called doubtful loans, up from 445 million euros a year ago.

Interest income dropped an annual 5.9 percent to 2.87 billion euros as the bank reduced short-term capital markets funding and returns on bond investments fell, ING said.

Bank Tax

Fourth-quarter earnings were also cut by 175 million euros to pay for a new Dutch tax, introduced in October to force banks to share the costs of ensuring financial stability after the nation bailed out companies including ING, SNS Reaal NV and ABN Amro Group NV in 2008 and 2009.

The firm will also have to pay about a third of a 1 billion-euro one-time industry levy next year imposed after the Netherlands took control of SNS Reaal on February 1.

ING shares have dropped 10 percent since SNS was nationalised for 3.7 billion euros.

Shareholders and holders of subordinated bonds in SNS were also forced to share in the costs of the bailout.

Insurance Arm

The insurance division, whose units are up for sale, had an underlying pretax profit of 272 million euros in the fourth quarter, compared with a loss of 1.51 billion euros a year earlier.

ING’s 10 billion-euro bailout by the Dutch state in 2008 was triggered as subprime mortgage assets held at its US unit plunged. It has repaid 7.8 billion euros of that sum, with 2.4 billion euros in interest and premiums.

Last year, Hommen won more time from European Union regulators to divest the insurance operations due to weak market conditions.

The Dutch firm was ordered to sell its global insurance and asset management operations before the end of 2013 as a condition of the bailout.

The European Commission said in November that ING has until the end of 2018 to complete the disposal of its European insurance arm.

ING completed the sale of its Malaysian insurance unit to AIA Group for 1.3 billion euros in the fourth quarter.

The disposal of its Canadian online bank in November resulted in a 1.1 billion-euro gain after tax, while the sale of ING Direct UK led to a loss of 244 million euros in the period. - Bloomberg


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