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In an effort to further strengthen its domestic retail banking business, UK banking giant Barclays PLC (BCS - Analyst Report) has agreed to acquire the mortgages and deposits of ING Direct UK – the British online banking division of ING Groep NV (ING - Snapshot Report). The detailed financial terms of the deal were undisclosed.

The deal will bring in 1.5 million customers along with 750 employees, £10.9 billion ($17.47 billion) deposits and £5.6 billion ($8.98) mortgages under the Barclays umbrella. Barclays declared that it will be buying the mortgages at roughly 3% discount and the deposits at par. The deal is anticipated to be completed in the second quarter of 2013, subject to certain regulatory conditions.

Following the completion of the deal, Barclays will integrate the ING Direct UK business with its UK Retail and Business Banking division. However, until the integration is completed, Barclays will continue using ING Direct UK’s businesses to serve the customers under the same terms and conditions. Further, Barclays expects the deal to improve its return on equity.

Amidst the bleak macroeconomic environment, which is clouded with mounting regulatory restrictions, Barclays has witnessed a decline in profit in its investment-banking segment. The bank is in the process of conducting a strategic review to simplify its businesses, increase profitability and reduce its over-dependence on the investment-banking arm.

We believe the acquisition will help Barclays to improve its retail banking market share in UK. The abovementioned agreement is an addition to numerous deals by Barclays in the recent years, including the acquisitions of Standard Life Bank in 2009 and credit card division of Egg in 2011.

On the other hand, the sale of ING Groep NV’s UK division is a part of a series of asset sales that the company has been undertaking to pay back the bailout fund, which it took from the Dutch government during the 2008 financial crisis. Further, it is part of the company’s strategic aim to concentrate more on the core banking segments.

Earlier, in August, ING announced the sale of ING Direct Canada – the Internet banking division of ING Bank of Canada – to The Bank Of Nova Scotia (BNS). Further, in February 2012, it completed the sale of its online banking unit, ING Direct USA, to Capital One Financial Corp. (COF).

Barclays and ING Groep NV, both currently retain a Zacks #3 Rank, which translates into a short-term Hold rating.

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