EUROPE - ING is to integrate its Dutch insurance activities under the Nationale Nederlanden brand and will create a single insurance operation in the rest of Europe, including Central Europe.

Life insurance sales in Europe were 6.4% down in the second quarter of this year, compared to the same quarter of 2008, according to the company.

However, life insurance in the Netherlands increased by €18m to €103m, "due to higher sales in group pension business, following the renewal of a large contract."

The company attributed the increase in Belgian sales - by €4m to €33m - to the introduction of the variable annuity contract Optima in February.

Meanwhile, sales elsewhere in Europe fell, despite the €6m contributions from the recently acquired Turkish pension fund Oyak Emeklilik, ING said.

The company reported a net overall profit of €71m, following a net loss of €793m during the previous quarter.

According to ING, its top priority policy of ‘back to basics' is already ahead of schedule on costs-containment and staff reductions, whereas its plans for de-leveraging and de-risking are ‘actively being enforced'.

The company did not release quarterly figures on its asset management operations, pending the preparations for the earlier announced integration of its worldwide asset management activities, the spokesman explained.

ING also sold its Russian non-state pension fund to Aviva following a strategy rethink in a deal announced in April.

"Our pension fund in Russia did not fit within our long-term strategy for group pensions," a spokesman pointed out to IPE, adding that ING wants to focus on Russia's life insurance market, after launching its subsidiary in 2007.

The step is in line with ING's recently adopted strategy of focusing on its core business, with its European insurance operations concentrated in the Benelux and Central Europe, it made clear in its second quarter report.

ING was the first foreign player when it started its €29m Russian scheme in 2002. With its 17,000 participants, it covered 60% of the market, and was aimed at staff of international companies.