AXA says mulls sale of private equity unit

PARIS Wed Sep 28, 2011 3:30pm EDT

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PARIS (Reuters) - French insurer AXA (AXAF.PA) confirmed it is exploring the possible sale of its private equity unit but said there was no guarantee the process would lead to a transaction.

AXA said on Wednesday the "strategic review" of the unit was in a "preliminary stage." Europe's No. 2 insurer said it still sees private equity as an attractive investment class for its assets.

Reuters and other media reported last week that AXA was considering a sale of the private equity unit, which has 20 billion euros ($27.3 billion) under management.

One source told Reuters the unit could be worth as much as $1.5 billion, while others said it was likely to fetch substantially less.

Analysts have said a sale of the unit would likely be a response to the tougher capital requirements under the Solvency II rules aimed at bolstering the industry's financial strength.

According to the French daily La Tribune, French investment firm Eurazeo (EURA.PA) and U.S. private equity firms KKR & Co (KKR.N) and Carlyle CYL.UL may be interested in the unit if it is put up for sale.

Eurazeo declined to comment, while KKR and Carlyle could not be immediately reached for comment.

AXA shares closed up 1.9 percent on Wednesday, outperforming the European sector .SXIP, which was 0.6 percent lower.

($1 = 0.733 Euros)

(Reporting By Christian Plumb; Editing by Matthias Blamont and John Wallace)

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