UPDATE 4-ING to cut 2,700 jobs, takes Greek bond hit

Thu Nov 3, 2011 5:55pm IST

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* Cuts about 10 pct of staff at Dutch retail banking unit

* Takes 467 mln euros pretax Greek bond hit

* Q3 net 1.69 bln euros vs 1.62 bln in poll

* Shares up 6 pct, outperform insurance index (Adds CEO comment, link to CFO interview, updates shares)

By Gilbert Kreijger

AMSTERDAM, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Dutch financial services group ING is to cut 2,700 jobs, it said on Thursday, slashing the headcount at its Dutch retail banking operations by 10 percent in the face of deteriorating markets.

The cuts follow similar measures at ING's Dutch rivals ABN AMRO and Rabobank and reflect the downturn in the global financial markets and a push to improve efficiency in the domestic market.

The Dutch central bank said on Wednesday that Dutch banks were inefficient compared with their foreign rivals and it saw room for them to cut costs.

ABN AMRO, which was nationalised in the 2008 financial crisis, is shedding 2,350 jobs or some 9 percent of its workforce, while Rabobank has announced plans to cut more than 1,200 jobs at its Dutch headquarters or 6 pct of staff jobs.

"Income is coming under pressure in the current environment. We need to make sure we remain competitive," ING Chief Executive Jan Hommen said on a conference call with analysts.

Other banks such as JPMorgan Chase and Credit Suisse are shedding jobs worldwide as stricter regulations and a tough trading environment take their toll on investment banking units in particular.

ING said it would cut 2,000 full-time staff, or 10.5 percent of its Dutch retail banking operations. It will also cut 700 contract positions.

ING took a 467 million-euro pre-tax writedown on Greek government bonds in its third-quarter results and said it had now written down all of its bonds to market value and reduced exposure to "peripheral" euro zone bonds by more than 5 billion euros.

European leaders were preparing on Thursday for the possibility of Greece leaving the euro zone, although Hommen said it would be better to keep Greece in the 12-year-old currency union.

"It's better for the country itself, it's better for Europe, and it's better for the financial system. But there is a price to everything," Hommen said.

REDUCED EXPOSURE

ING shares, which have fallen around 10 percent this week on Europe's debt problems, were up 6.1 percent at 5.99 euros by 1141 GMT, outperforming the STOXX Europe 600 insurance index , which rose 2.2 percent.

"The bank and the insurer results were good and we do not have to change our future earnings estimates. Their exposure to Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain has been well reduced to very manageable proportions," Rabobank analyst Cor Kluis said in a note.

ING plans to list its U.S. insurance operations and its combined European and Asian insurance operations in the next two years , as part of European Commission approval for state aid received in 2008 during the credit crisis.

Hommen said ING has continued with preparations for the IPOs but that financial markets in the United States and Europe were not open to a financial stock listing because of the debt crisis and market turmoil.

ING has already paid back part of the state aid it received, and had previously said it would repay the remaining 3 billion euros plus a 50 percent premium by May 2012, but Hommen said the final settlement could be postponed because of market uncertainty and new capital requirements.

"Until we know all the details we cannot firmly say we will but we have every intention to do it as quickly as we can," Hommen said.

ING received an additional 5 billion euros in inflows from clients in the third quarter, especially corporate and institutional clients, showing it did not suffer from worries about banks' health due to Europe's debt crisis, Hommen said.

The group's third-quarter net profit of 1.69 billion euros was slightly ahead of the average forecast of 1.6 billion euros in a Reuters poll of nine analysts.

Net profit was revised to 239 million euros in the same period last year, when results were impacted by writedowns related to U.S. insurance operations. ING said the year-ago figures were restated to reflect a change in accounting policy. (Editing by Mike Nesbit and Helen Massy-Beresford)

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