NEW YORK Australia's Macquarie Group Ltd (MQG.AX) has emerged as the lead bidder to buy Robeco, four people familiar with the matter said this week. The asset management arm of Dutch bank Rabobank NV RABN.UL could fetch around 3 billion euros ($3.96 billion), one of the sources said.
The Netherlands' largest retail bank also received a bid from Japanese financial services firm Orix Corp (8591.T) for all of Robeco.
Orix is also still in the running, the sources said.
As of September 30, Robeco's assets under management totaled 188 billion euros ($248 billion).
Rabobank, which is looking to shore up its capital position, had told prospective buyers that it wants to sell the business as a whole, according to the sources, who requested anonymity because the deal talks were confidential.
A Rabobank spokesman confirmed that the bank is considering "all strategic options regarding Robeco," but declined to elaborate.
A spokeswomen for Macquarie declined to comment. A representative at Orix did not respond to requests for comment.
Other bidders for Robeco initially included a private equity consortium of Advent International and CVC Capital Partners CVC.UL as well as private equity firm Permira PERM.UL and Boston-based asset manager AMG Inc (AMG.N). It was unclear if any of these entities are still involved in the bidding.
Spokeswomen for CVC and AMG declined to comment. Representatives for Advent and Permira did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Rabobank put Robeco for sale in the spring after it lost its triple-A credit rating from Standard & Poor's last year and sought to prepare for stricter capital rules on European banks.
It could not be determined when Rabobank would announce a buyer for the business.
(Reporting by Jessica Toonkel; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Alden Bentley and Lisa Von Ahn)