ING Report Record Fourth-Quarter Profit

ING Groep, the Dutch bank and insurance company, posted a 14% rise in profit Thursday, mostly due to strength in its insurance arm and lower tax rates.

Net profit was a company record 2.10 billion euros ($2.73 billion), rising from 1.84 billion euros in the same period a year earlier. Income from all sources was up 1.1% to 18.1 billion euros ($23.5 billion), as rises in investment income and commissions outweighed falls in income from insurance premiums and interest income.

Shares rose 0.1% to 34.67 euros ($45.06) in early Amsterdam trading.

Pretax insurance profit was up 31% to 1.34 billion euros ($1.74 billion), boosted by a strong performance from stock markets -- leading to big gains in the portfolio of investments the company holds to pay potential claims.

Pretax banking profit rose 3.4% to 1.16 billion euros ($1.51 billion), as competition squeezed the difference between how much the bank could charge borrowers and how much interest it paid customers on deposits.

Taxes were down more than 40% to 287 million euros ($373 million) -- an effective rate of just 12% -- which ING said was due to lower national tax rates, and less taxes owed on income from stock.

Full-year net profit was up 6.7% to 7.69 billion euros ($10.0 billion).

Chief executive Michel Tilmant said for the full year, ING benefited from "rallying equity and real estate markets, a benign credit environment, a favorable underwriting cycle in non-life insurance and lower taxes." He said the company's Japanese and U.S. life insurance businesses were the weakest performers "and we are actively addressing those."

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