A&O joins raft of firms on AIA’s ING buy as Malaysian deals stack up

Allen & Overy (A&O) and Debevoise & Plimpton are among the firms to have advised on pan-Asian life insurer AIA’s $1.7bn (£1bn) acquisition of the Malaysian insurance business of Dutch financial services group ING.

Debevoise and Wong & Partners, the Malaysian member firm of Baker & McKenzie, advised AIA. The Debevoise team was led by Hong Kong-based corporate partner Drew Dutton, while the Wong & Partners team was headed by Kuala Lumpur corporate partner Brian Chia.

ING was advised by a team from A&O jointly led by London corporate partner Richard Evans and Amsterdam corporate partner Charles Honée. Malaysian firm Skrine acted as the local counsel to the seller, with corporate partner Janet Looi leading the team.

The sale of its Malaysian businesses is the first major step in ING’s intended divestment of its Asian insurance and investment management businesses. The process for the remaining businesses is ongoing.

AIA CEO Mark Tucker said the acquisition will bring a step change in the scale and reach of its existing Malaysian business and enhance its growth in one of the most attractive markets in the region.

Subject to regulatory approvals in Malaysia and the Netherlands, the transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2013.

Background to this deal:

Debevoise has been a long-term adviser to the US insurance group AIG. In 2010, AIG spun out its Asian life insurance arm AIA through a $17.9bn IPO in Hong Kong in 2010 as part of its plan to pay back its bailout from the US government. Debevoise and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer acted for the issuer on the listing, while Sullivan & Cromwell and Linklaters advised the underwriters. Debevoise’s team in the IPO was also headed by Dutton. Dutton and his team also recently advised AIA on its $109m acquisition of Sri Lankan insurer Aviva NDB Insurance.

A&O, on the other hand, has a strong institutional relationship with ING. For example, it has seconded several Amsterdam-based associates to the Dutch insurer’s legal department, including Johannes de Jong and Neyah Van der Aa.

The deal comes after Freshfields advised ING on the sale of its UK online banking arm ING Direct UK to Barclays Bank, with Linklaters acting for Barclays (9 October 2012).

Malaysia has become a key focus point for investment, with A&O and Clifford Chance both recently winning major roles on a large sukuk issue by Axiata, a telecoms group in the country (28 September 2012).

For more on foreign firms’ relationships in Malaysia, see City analysis

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