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Prudential hires Merrill to advise on ING Asia bid:report

A Merrill Lynch sign is seen in Toronto
A Merrill Lynch sign is seen in Toronto

SEOUL (Reuters) - Prudential Financial Inc , the No.2 U.S. life insurer, has hired Bank of America Merrill Lynch to advise on its possible bid for ING Groep NV's Asian insurance operations, South Korean media reported, in what is potentially Asia's second-biggest insurance sale ever.

The Korea Economic Daily said small local insurer Korea Life Insurance Co Ltd <088350.KS> was also looking into a takeover bid for all of ING's Asian insurance assets, citing unnamed industry sources.

Korea Life, which is already vying with Prudential for local peer Tong Yang Life Insurance Co Ltd <082640.KS>, said earlier this month that it was reviewing the feasibility of bidding for ING's Asia-Pacific insurance operations.

Investment banks are competing hard for a role in the deal and a cut of an estimated $60 million in combined deal fees, according to consultancy Freeman & Co.

ING, which announced a lower-than-expected quarterly profit on Thursday, may divest some of its Asian insurance or investment management operations separately, but such operations would be small, ING Chief Executive Jan Hommen said earlier.

AIA Group Ltd <1299.HK> was expected to name Deutsche Bank AG and Morgan Stanley as advisers for a possible bid that could be worth more than $6 billion for ING's Asian insurance operations, sources told Reuters earlier.

The Korean office of Prudential declined to comment.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Chris Lewis)

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