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ING Says Weak European Economy Weighs As Net Profit Sinks

By Maarten van Tartwijk Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES AMSTERDAM -(Dow Jones)- Dutch financial services firm ING Groep NV (INGA.AE) said Wednesday that the weakening European economy will continue to weigh on its performance as it reported a 51% drop in first-quarter net profit. ING, the Netherlands' largest bank, said net profit was EUR680 million, down from EUR1.38 billion in the same period a year earlier, driven by higher provisions for bad loans and losses on derivatives that are used to protect the capital position of its insurance business. The results were also pressured by a EUR370 million legal charge related to a transaction carried out by ING's commercial banking arm in the U.S., plus EUR304 million of value adjustments on some of its outstanding debt as a result of tightening credit spreads. Chief Executive Jan Hommen said in a statement that the euro zone debt crisis continued to pressure results. While bad loan costs declined from the fourth quarter, they will remain at elevated levels as the European economy weakens, he said. ING, which was bailed out twice during the 2008 financial crisis and received EUR10 billion worth of state aid, is now considered one of Europe's strongest banks. The group is one of the few major lenders in the region that didn't tap cheap funds in the European Central Bank's recent three-year refinancing program. Its core Tier 1 ratio, a key measure of its capital, was 10.9% at the end of the first quarter, higher than the European average of 10.1% by the end of 2011, according to a survey of CreditSights, a research firm. Despite its strong capital position and healthy balance sheet, analysts have become concerned about ING's large exposure to Spain and the weak Dutch housing market. These worries have weighed on ING's stock, which has lost 10% since the start of 2012. Its shares closed at EUR5 Tuesday. -By Maarten van Tartwijk, Dow Jones Newswires; +31 20 571 5201; Order free Annual Report for ING Groep NV Visit or call +44 (0)208 391 6028

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