AMSTERDAM - ING Group NV, the largest Dutch financial services company, said it plans to spend 2.0 billion euros ($1.9 billion) on the Internet, which it expects will help earnings per share rise at least 10% this year.
ING also revived its bid for Credit Commercial de France SA, France's sixth-largest bank. The company said it's still interested in buying the French bank and its offer of 137.5 euros a share will stand until May 30.
"We don't want to be a prisoner of CCF management or French regulators, but we are willing to live up to our offer of 137.5 euros," ING chief executive Godfried van der Lugt said at a press conference. "The bid stands until May 30 but will no longer be kept at that level after that."
ING said it will make the Internet-related investment during the next three years to expand its on-line banking and brokerage businesses. Part of that will go to open its ING Direct telephone and Internet bank in France, the United States, and Italy.
ING also is still hoping to reach a deal with U.S.-based Aetna Inc. to buy its financial services units after the health insurer rejected a joint offer of $10 billion from ING and WellPoint Health Networks Inc. on Monday.
"The line with Aetna isn't dead," said Mr. Van der Lugt, who will retire May 2, adding "If it shall not be Aetna, then we will look at other options."
ING also said it plans to expand the on-line brokerage units Postbank Online in the Netherlands and One Two Trade in Belgium and France. ING's Banque Bruxelles Lambert SA started a real-time on-line brokerage in January that allows investors to trade equities on the Brussels, New York, Paris, and Nasdaq exchanges.
ING said final fourth-quarter profit rose 62% as recovery in emerging markets boosted earnings at its investment bank, ING Barings. The fourth-quarter figures were calculated by subtracting the nine-month profit from the full year.
- Bloomberg News