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NAB exit leaves door open for AXA suitors

Wednesday 15th September 2010

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National Australia Bank’s decision to scrap its AS$13.3 billion bid for Axa Asia Pacific Holdings after antitrust authorities blocked the deal has opened the door for other suitors to make a bid for the wealth manager.

NAB withdrew its offer after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission blocked the takeover for a second time last week, bringing the 10-month battled for the global wealth manager to an end.

The move puts AMP, Australian’s second biggest wealth manager, in a prime position to make a successful bid for Axa AP.

In November, Axa AP turned down an unsolicited offer from AMP and French parent company Axa SA to acquire the company for cash and stock amounting to A$5.34 a share, or A$12.9 billion.

AMP planned to keep Axa AP’s Australian and New Zealand units, and sell the other eight Asian divisions to the French parent.

“This certainly opens the way for Axa to engage with other interested parties - AMP is certainly one, and ANZ another that has expressed an interest,” said Angus Gluskie, a director at White Funds Management in Sydney.

“I don’t think Axa will immediately jump onto any one ship, but will take the opportunity to look pretty seriously at which options look most suitable.”

AMP’s offer, if reinstated, is likely to face less regulatory hurdles that the NAB deal, after New Zealand’s Commerce Commission granted clearance for the deal and the ACCC said it wouldn’t oppose the bid.

“The NAB tie up put them in unique place, which I don’t think tie ups with other parties would do,” Gluskie said.

Last month, AMP’s chief executive Craig Dunn said the wealth management firm was still open to pursuing its rival, and take on the banks in Australia’s lucrative superannuation market.

Shares in AMP rose 0.5% to $6.47 on the NZX and fell 0.2% to A$5.07 on the Australian stock exchange. Axa AP’s stock was unchanged at A$5.18 on the ASX, and NAB was unchanged at A$25.22.

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