HONG KONG — ING Group NV's (ING) sale of its Asian asset-management arm has attracted bids from Japan's Nikko Asset Management, Australia's Macquarie Group Ltd. (MQG.AU) and others, in an auction that could value the operations at about $500 million, people familiar with the situation said Tuesday.

According to some of the people, those other bidders included Singapore's United Overseas Bank Ltd.

ING is also selling its larger Asian insurance operations, which together could be valued at more than $7 billion, equity analysts estimate. A sale of both Asian units would allow ING to repay the Dutch state for the remainder of the aid received in 2008, the analysts said, removing restrictions on the day-to-day running of the business such as compensation. The sale would also simplify ING's structure, pave the way for more disposals and tighten focus on banking operations.

ING said recently that the sale of Asian assets had started and was progressing well.

ING's Investment Management Asia Pacific unit had US$54.1 billion under management and 187 investment professionals on staff at the end of 2011, according to its website. It had a presence in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and India.

ING sold ING Investment Management Australia to Swiss rival UBS AG (UBS) last year.

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