Could the dismal European economy actually be "good" for anyone?

Maybe for ING Groep NV, which received from the European Union a two-year extension on some of the terms it agreed to following a 10 billion euro (US$12 billion) emergency bailout from the Dutch government in 2008.

The extension means that ING now has until 2015 to sell off its insurance and asset management units, on the basis that the current debt crisis and stricter regulations make it too difficult for ING to do so.

"We are pleased that the agreement announced today gives us more time and flexibility to complete the required restructuring while leaving our strategic objectives unchanged. We will ensure that we maintain the momentum of the programme as we have demonstrated in the past four years," said CEO Jan Homman of ING Group, in a press statement today.

Under the new agreement, ING must completely sell off its European insurance arm by the end of 2018, and its Asian insurance operations by year-end 2016. In addition, it must completely sell ING U.S. by the end of 2016.

For 2013, ING has committed to selling more than 50% of the Asian insurance operations and at least 25% of ING U.S. ING has already sold off parts of its assets, including the Latin-American insurance division in 2011, and the first three sales of the Asian insurance unit were announced in October. A press release from Monday, Nov. 19 also announced the agreement sell ING's investment management business in Thailand to UOB Asset Management Ltd., a subsidiary of Singapore-based United Overseas Bank Ltd.

In addition, ING U.S. filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this month on Nov. 9 to raise up to $100 million in an initial public offering. ING announced at the time that Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are the joint bookrunners on the deal.

In the filing ING indicated that its U.S.'s business units include retirement, investment and insurance, with reported retail mutual fund portfolio assets totaling $18.6 billion as of December 2011. In retirement, it boasts 49,000 plan sponsor clients covering about 5.3 million plan participants, representing $287.7 billion of assets under management.

The amendment does not grant ING relief from restrictions outlined in the 2009 agreement on acquisitions and price leadership for certain products in the European markets and will continue to apply until Nov. 18, 2015, or until the date when more than 50% of each of the insurance operations has been sold. The restrictions have, however, be amended to reflect specific conditions in various local markets in Europe.

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