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BANKING

Hungry ING looks for its next meal

Aad Jacobs, head of ING, enjoys a ritual on his journey to the bank's headquarters in Amsterdam each morning. He reads the paper, starting with the sports pages then turns to the business pages to see which bank ING is supposed to be buying that day. Some of the rumours, he says, leave him dumbfounded. But they continue to crop up for a good reason. ING has often expressed its wish to find a second home in Europe outside the Netherlands. Its executives are convinced that the single currency will lead to a single European market in banking services and are keen to position themselves accordingly and not fall into the trap of being over-dependent on a Netherlands market which itself may be attacked by new foreign competitors.

ING's intention, to be a multi-brand organization - a family of financial services companies rather than a single giant integrated bank - is well suited to growth through acquisition.

In November the bank announced the largest cross-border acquisition in Europe so far, buying Banque Bruxelles Lambert (BBL) in Belgium, in a transaction worth over Fls9 billion ($4.5 billion). Partly this was clearing up unfinished business from the past.

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