ING says German arm growing well on its own amid Commerzbank talk
By Toby Sterling
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - ING Groep NV's German business is growing very well independently, the Dutch bank's chief executive said on Thursday, declining to comment on media reports it might be interested in buying Germany's Commerzbank.
Sources familiar with the matter have said both ING and Italy's UniCredit expressed an interest in Commerzbank before merger talks between Germany's second-biggest bank and its larger rival Deutsche Bank collapsed last month.
In a conference call to discuss ING's first-quarter earnings, which fell slightly more than expected, CEO Ralph Hamers declined to comment directly on the matter.
"In markets where we are already a player, if consolidation starts to happen, we'll have to take a look at our position and what consequences that would have," he said.
"Our strategy is an organic growth strategy and we're doing that very well, also in Germany."
Underlying net profit at the largest Netherlands-based bank fell 6.1 percent to 1.12 billion euros (£965 million) in the three months ended March 31, hit by higher provisions and low interest rates in its core markets.
Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast 1.15 billion euros.
ING's shares were little changed at 11.38 euros at 0915 GMT.
"Income grew both year-on-year and sequentially," Hamers said. "However, this was offset by higher but still relatively low risk costs (that is, bad loan provisions), and pressure from low interest rates in our main euro zone markets."
Provisions rose to 207 million euros from 85 million in the first quarter of 2018.
ING's underling income in Germany rose to 498 million euros from 479 million euros a year earlier, and the company added 60,000 "primary" German retail customers, meaning clients that use at least two ING products.
Among key group metrics, ING's net core lending grew by 8.7 billion euros in the quarter, while net customer deposits rose by 4.8 billion euros.
ING's core tier-one capital ratio, its key measure of solvency, improved to 14.7 percent at the end of March from 14.5 percent at the end of 2018.
(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier and Mark Potter)