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NAB tries to get ACCC onside with divestiture of Axa platform

Monday 9th August 2010

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National Australia Bank has offered to sell Axa Asia Pacific’s North investment platform to wealth manager IOOF Holdings to win antitrust regulator approval for its takeover of Axa.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will consider undertakings from NAB and Axa to sell the asset manager’s platform, the regulator said in a statement.

The platform caused the regulator to block the bank’s A$13.3 billion bid for the Axa businesses, and the ACCC is calling for submissions on whether the divestment will allay competition concerns about NAB’s offer.  

“The divestment does not detract from the strategic rationale of the NAB proposal to acquire Axa APH’s Australian and New Zealand businesses and will not have a material impact on the financial outcomes of the acquisition,” said Steve Tucker, NAB group executive wealth.

“IOOF is a substantial and experienced platform operator, and NAB believes that it will be a capable manager of the North investment platform business.”

The ACCC knocked back NAB’s original proposal, which would have merged Axa’s platform with its own Navigator platform, saying deal would remove competitive tension.

Under the undertakings, Axa would divest the the North platform, which is an administrative structure for investments, to IOOF, which will provide admin services exclusively to the Axa unit for at least three years.

Axa will also fund the development of the platform to let certain IOOF products be administered under the system. If the proposal isn’t accepted, the divestment won’t occur.

Submissions on the undertakings close on August 23, and the regulator will make up its mind by September 9.

Axa shares surged 6.1% to A$5.53 on the ASX today, while NAB fell 0.7% to A$24.86. IOOF stock rose 2.7% to A$6.76.

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