Australia's AMP in new 13-bln-dlr bid for AXA Asia Pacific

November 15, 2010 | 15:10
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Australian wealth manager AMP Monday made a new bid for AXA Asia Pacific worth at least $13 billion, two months after National Australia Bank terminated its offer after being blocked by regulators.

AMP said it was teaming up with AXA Asia Pacific's French parent, AXA SA, renewing a partnership which was originally trumped by National Australia Bank's higher offer.

AMP stands to acquire AXA Asia Pacific's Australian and New Zealand businesses while AXA SA would take charge of its subsidiary's Asian arm, company statements said.

AXA Asia Pacific added it was considering the deal which Dow Jones Newswires said was worth at least 13 billion dollars ($12.86 billion).

AMP chief executive Craig Dunn said AXA Asia Pacific was a "natural partner" and the merger could create a much needed fifth pillar in the Australian financial service landscape, which is dominated by the four major banks.

"It makes economic sense, is an excellent strategic fit with our current business and has a risk profile we understand and are well-placed to manage," he said in a statement.

"The combined businesses would see AMP become the leading wealth management company in one of the world's most attractive wealth management markets which is expected to more than double over the next decade."

AMP said its offer of $6.43 per share -- consisting of cash and AMP shares -- as well as AXA Asia Pacific's 2010 final dividend of up to 9.25 cents per share, was compelling.

Its previous offer of $6.22 per share -- of cash and stock -- was rejected in December by AXA Asia Pacific Holdings' independent directors who said the cash component was too low.

AMP's renewed offer comes one month after big-four lender National Australia Bank terminated its equivalent all-cash bid for AXA Asia Pacific after it was twice blocked by regulators on competition grounds.

Australian officials said they feared a National Australia Bank takeover -- which also would have involved AXA SA taking on the Asian business -- would shrink the local financial services industry.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has previously said it does not have the same concerns about an AMP buy-out and the New Zealand Commerce Commission has previously given it the go-ahead.

Shares in AXA Asia Pacific Holdings, which were placed in a trading halt early Monday, last traded at $5.78 -- meaning the offer represents an 11 per cent premium.

If successful, the deal will give the European parent company an expanded footprint into Asia as it focuses on developing markets.


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