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Rating Action:

MOODY'S CONFIRMS ING GROUP'S RATINGS AT Aa2 FOLLOWING ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE ACQUISITION OF AETNA FINANCIAL SERVICES AND AETNA INTERNATIONAL; MAINTAINS NEGATIVE RATING OUTLOOK

20 Jul 2000
MOODY'S CONFIRMS ING GROUP'S RATINGS AT Aa2 FOLLOWING ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE ACQUISITION OF AETNA FINANCIAL SERVICES AND AETNA INTERNATIONAL; MAINTAINS NEGATIVE RATING OUTLOOK

Approximately USD13.3 billion of debts are affected

London, 20 July 2000 -- Moody's Investors Service has confirmed the Aa2 long-term senior debt ratings of ING Groep (ING), following ING's announcement that it will acquire Aetna Financial Services and Aetna International for USD7.8 billion in cash and assumed debt. Moody's also confirmed the Aa2 senior debt ratings for ING's subsidiaries, ING Verzekeringen NV and ING America Insurance Holdings, Inc., as well as the Aa2 insurance financial strength ratings of ING's U.S. life insurance subsidiaries. The outlook on all of the ratings remains negative. The ratings of ING Bank N.V. are unaffected (senior debts at Aa2 with a stable outlook).

Based in Hartford, Connecticut, Aetna Inc. (Aetna) is one of the largest health insurance and financial services organizations in the U.S. ING intends to acquire Aetna Inc., the group's ultimate parent, once its global health insurance business - conducted primarily through Aetna U.S. Healthcare - has been separated from the global financial services business into its own publicly traded company. The transaction is expected to close by year-end, pending shareholder and regulatory approvals,

The activities to be retained by Aetna Inc. following the spin-off of its health insurance business include retirement and investment products and services, as well as international life and health insurance. ING will primarily finance the acquisition using internal sources, raising most of the cash through the sale of some of the group's large strategic equity shareholdings. In addition, ING may also issue some additional debt, which, when combined with Aetna's existing debt, should moderately raise ING's core indebtedness.

In confirming ING's ratings, Moody's commented that the acquisition of Aetna's U.S. financial services activities - following the acquisition of ReliaStar announced in May - fulfills ING's stated ambition to become a top ten life insurer in North America, the world's largest market.

The combination of Aetna, ReliaStar, and ING's existing U.S. operations propels ING into a top tier position in the domestic markets for fixed and variable annuities, universal life and variable universal life, as well as life reinsurance. These acquisitions have boosted ING's U.S. franchise and offer synergies opportunities in the manufacturing and distribution of asset accumulation products. The Aetna acquisition brings ING a strong position in the tax-deferred annuities and qualified pensions plans sector, especially in the 403(b) and 457 markets, as well as a strong distribution capability in tax-sheltered products and financial planning segments of the market.

Moody's added that it views ING's investments in the U.S. market as good, sound businesses, with strong operating capabilities, and that these recently announced acquisitions have not undermined the group's overall credit profile.

Additionally, Moody's expects Aetna International's insurance operations in various markets in Asia and South-America to blend easily with ING's existing overseas network and to strengthen the group's positions in these emerging markets.

Offsetting these positives, Moody's noted that the group's recent acquisitions in the U.S. reflect ING's strategy of deploying its capital more intensively, by progressively reallocating its surplus capital to acquisitions in its core insurance businesses. To finance its recent acquisitions, ING has unwound some of its long-term investments in unaffiliated companies, and will write-off significant amounts of goodwill (USD5.4 bn for Aetna's businesses acquired and USD3.2 bn for ReliaStar).

As a result, Moody's believes that ING has substantially used most of its existing financial flexibility and any significant additional external expansion could have negative ramifications on the group's current rating. Nevertheless, because the financial leverage to be incurred in the Aetna transaction will remain moderate, ING is maintaining a strong debt service capacity, underpinning the group's existing ratings. In the near future, Moody's expects ING to concentrate on integrating its recent acquisitions, and to profit from its superior earning generation capacity to replenish its financial flexibility.

The rating agency concluded that, going forward, one of the group's main challenges will be to efficiently manage its various operations in North America and abroad, and to generate the higher returns expected from its new investments. Reflecting these uncertainties and the group's diminished financial flexibility, Moody's said that ING's rating outlook remains negative.

The following ratings were confirmed:

ING Groep - senior medium term notes at Aa2; subordinated medium term notes at Aa3;

ING Verzekeringen NV- long-term debt at Aa2; short-term rating at Prime-1;

ING America Insurance Holdings - long-term debt, guaranteed by ING Verzekeringen, at Aa2; commercial paper, guaranteed by ING Verzekeringen, at Prime-1;

Equitable of Iowa Companies - senior debt at Aa3; junior subordinated debt at A1; preferred securities at "aa3";

Equitable Life Insurance Company of Iowa - insurance financial strength at Aa2;

Security Life of Denver Insurance Company - insurance financial strength at Aa2;

Southland Life Insurance Company - insurance financial strength at Aa2;

Life Insurance Company of Georgia - insurance financial strength at Aa2;

UGS Annuity and Life Company - insurance financial strength at Aa2;

ING Groep NV is based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and had assets of €493 billion at the end of 1999.

London
Mark Hewlett
Managing Director
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.

Paris
Jean-Luc Lepreux
Vice President - Sr Credit Offic
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's France S.A.

44 20 7772 5454

No Related Data.
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