Australia's AMP exploring AXA Asia bid options: sources

SYDNEY Wed Sep 22, 2010 3:53am EDT

Related Topics

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian insurer AMP (AMP.AX) will take at least a month to decide whether to revive its bid for wealth manager AXA Asia Pacific AXA.AX, two sources said on Wednesday, signaling more delays for the $10 billion-plus deal.

AMP, which is expected to return to the fray after rival bidder National Australia Bank (NAB.AX) withdrew its offer last week, was looking to improve its initial offer, said the sources with direct knowledge of the situation.

An AMP spokeswoman declined to comment, reiterating that AXA Asia Pacific was strategically attractive at the right price.

AMP wants AXA Asia Pacific for its Australian and New Zealand businesses, which would vault AMP to top position in Australia's $1 trillion wealth management market. AMP would on-sell AXA Asia Pacific's Asian assets to French insurer AXA

SA (AXAF.PA).

A major wildcard is how much AXA SA would be willing to tip in to buy the Asian operations, the sources added, noting AMP would be unwilling to match NAB's higher offer.

AMP initially made an offer for AXA Asia Pacific last November but was trumped by NAB's $12 billion bid. NAB, which had structured its deal along the same lines as AMP, was knocked back by the competition regulator this month.

AMP remains interested, but has not formally decided to make another offer and may still walk away, the sources said.

"The earliest one could be looking at is weeks, hopefully not months but weeks," one source said, referring to at least a month.

AXA SA, which owns 54 percent of AXA Asia Pacific, is targeting Asia for expansion but has been stymied by delays in exiting the mature businesses of Australia and New Zealand.

AMP's lapsed cash-and-shares bid would be worth about $5.40 a share at current market prices or a full dollar below NAB's bid, which AXA Asia Pacific's independent directors accepted.

One source ruled out AMP making an all-cash offer, saying AMP could only offer more of its own shares to improve its bid. A fresh AMP bid also rests on AXA SA's willingness to sweeten its offer for the Asian businesses, the source added.

NAB had offered an all-cash option of A$6.43 per share.

(Reporting by Narayanan Somasundaram and Michael Smith;)

FILED UNDER: