ING Profit Up 24.8 Percent To $3.7 Billion

Holland’s ING Groep NV reported strong earnings increases in all sectors for the year 2000 with overall operating profit rising 24.8 percent to €4.01 billion ($3.7 billion). The results were in line with analysts expectations, and reflected the company’s recent U.S. acquisition of ReliaStar. Aetna’s financial services and international divisions, which ING acquired last December, were consolidated as of January 1, and weren’t included in last year’s results.

Net profit from ING’s insurance operations rose 20.2 percent to $2.184 billion, banking services rose 30.1 percent to $1.544 billion and assets under management increased by 45.7 percent to $467.8 billion. The increases were in line with analysts’ forecasts.

CEO Ewald Kist indicated that for the moment ING wasn’t anticipating further acquisitions, and had entered what he called a “new phase of consolidation, integration, operational excellence and synergy.” The company is particularly focused on building ING Direct, its online financial service. Half a million new clients signed on in 2000. It now serves 768,000 customers, and will launch the site in France this month.

ING has largely given up on its pursuit of investment banking business in the U.S, selling its Barings operations to Holland’s ABN Amro Bank in January. It will continue investment banking operations in Europe, Latin America and Asia, but plans expansion in the U.S. around its life and financial management business.

While the results offered good news to shareholders, ING was cautious about the future. “At this early stage in the year and given the uncertain economic outlook and volatile financial markets, the outlook for 2001 is full of uncertainties,” said the report.

ING nevertheless is predicting 12 percent growth this year, and has also announced a 2 for 1 stock split, to take effect next month.