NETHERLANDS - Dutch banking group ING has signed a memorandum of understanding with Greece-based Piraeus Bank for a 10-year exclusive distribution partnership in Greece covering life, employee benefits and pension insurances.

ING stated it will acquire full ownership of ING Piraeus Life, the joint venture between ING and Piraeus Bank, as part of the deal but both parties have refused to give any financial information regarding the transaction.

ING has been working with the Greek firm since 2002 but this new deal will give ING full access to the vast office network of Piraeus Bank, largely for the distribution of life insurance and pension unit-linked products.

The ING Piraeus Life venture is ranked eighth in the Greek market with a 3.7% market share. ING and Piraeus Bank expect to sign the final agreement in September 2007.

This latest acquisition contrasts ING's earlier position towards Piraeus, however, as  ING sold a 3.9% equity stake in Piraeus for €202.3m to institutional investors in March 2006.

ING also reported within the last week it has acquired Spanish banking group Santander's Latin American pension businesses.

According to ING, the mandatory pension fund management companies (AFPs), which are located in Mexico, Chile, Colombia, and Uruguay, will make it the second-largest pension fund manager in Latin America.

Both companies are still holding negotiations regarding the position of Santander's pension and annuities business in Argentina, which is not included in the acquisition at this stage.

Total financial results of the deal are that ING acquires 100% equity stake in the pension businesses (with exception of Argentina) for a total consideration of $1.3bn (€960m).

The Santander Latin American pension business has at present 5.5 million customers, around 5,000 employees and a vast network of agents. Assets are set to be around €13.8bn, while after tax profits (2006) are set at €64m.