MetLife and Prudential Financial have geared up to acquire Dutch lender ING's Asian life-insurance unit in a deal expected to amount to nearly $6bn.

ING’s Hong Kong-based life insurance operations consist of eight wholly owned or joint-venture businesses in China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand.

The proposed sale is in line with a restructuring requirements agreement with the European Commission, which was inked prior to receiving approval for a government aid during the financial crisis in November 2008.

Prudential Financial’s international operations are centred in Japan, and the firm had recently acquired two life insurers from AIG for $4.8bn.
MetLife also has a large Japanese operation and in 2010 it purchased an AIG life-insurance business for $16bn.

Credit Suisse and Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch unit have been hired to serve as advisers on the bids for MetLife and Prudential Financial respectively.

Other potential bidders for the acquisition include Manulife Financial and Sun Life Financial while, Korea’s KB Financial, Samsung Life Insurance and Hong Kong-listed AIA have expressed interest only in ING’s South Korean life-insurance operations.

ING will use the proceeds to repay the Dutch state aid and is likely to send detailed information to interested parties in the next few weeks.

In July 2011, ING agreed to sell its Latin American pensions, life insurance and investment management operations to Colombia-listed Grupo de Inversiones Suramericana (Gruposura) for $3.85bn.