Success second time around for Dutch : THE BARINGS COLLAPSE

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The Independent Online
The man who bought Barings yesterday revealed that he had already tried to buy it once before.

Aad Jacobs, ING's chairman, said that ING had approached Barings in November last year with a view to buying, or co-operating, with the British merchant bank.

"We had taken a strategic decision to expand in global investment banking, asset management and emerging markets, and Barings fitted perfectly in this," he said. But the talks never got off the ground.

ING was formed by the merger of a bank and an insurance company, making it the largest financial group in the Netherlands. With market capitalisation of £10bn and net profits of £1bn in 1994 it ranks number five in Europe. Mr Jacobs said yesterday that the Barings acquisition would be paid for in cash from the group's own resources.

Meanwhile, it emerged that bondholders with £300m-worth of Barings paper are the biggest losers from the derivatives debacle - apart from the Barings family - despite cash payments offered by ING, yesterday.

At the court hearing to clear the way for the sale, lawyers representing the bondholders put their views to the vice-chancellor, Sir Richard Scott, asking him not to discharge the administration orders on some parts of the Barings group without assurances they would be paid. The vice-chancellor refused and the deal went ahead.

Later ING's Aad Jacobs said his bank would pay holders of £100m-worth of bonds £5m in cash up front with the possibility of another £20m later. "They are being treated too well," he said.

Mr Jacobs put the definitive losses from Baring's disastrous Far Eastern derivatives speculation at £860m. This total comprises £610m in Tokyo, £90m in Osaka and £160m in Singapore.

ING said all creditors and depositors of the firms it is buying - Baring Bros, Baring Securities and Baring Asset Management - would be paid out in full. The cash injection into Barings totals £660m.

ING is not buying the holding company, Barings Plc, but confusion reigned immediately after the hearing as to which creditors had been left out and what the payout terms would be. In particular it is not clear what will happen to holders of $300m -worth of senior unsecured floating bonds, which are currently traded for 20p-30p in the £.

Following its policy of autonomy for its consituent businesses, Barings is to be allowed considerable independence within the group.

"It is not our intention to integrate Barings into the ING business," said Mr Jacobs, adding that the Barings name will continue on all three main activities. But Barings will be run by the investment management specialist on ING's board, Hessel Lindenbergh, who was said to "know all about derivatives."

Somewhat surprisingly, Mr Jacobs said a rapid investigation by ING had found Barings controls to be adequate. These have been blamed for the failure to spot the disastrous derivatives speculation by Nick Leeson in Singapore, that brought down Barings with losses of £860m.

"We are not dissatisfied with the information technology and the controls - they are reasonable," said Mr Jacobs. He said they would be speedily improved with the help of ING experts. But as to the supervisory failure that allowed Mr Leeson's speculation to reach fatal proportions, Mr Jacobs said yesterday: "I still have no idea how it happened."

ING confirmed it wants to hold onto all of Barings businesses, including the 40 per cent stake in Dillon, Read, a leading US investment house.

Providing details of the purchase yesterday, ING said Barings had had shareholders funds and retained earning of £440m at the end of 1994. Against this were set the Far Eastern losses of £860m, leaving a deficit of £420m. After the cash injection of £660m, Barings is left with shareholders' funds of £240m.