AXA to bid for Unipol-Fondiaria assets - report
MILAN, Sept 23
MILAN, Sept 23 (Reuters) - France's AXA is preparing a bid for portfolio assets that Italian insurers Unipol and Fondiaria-SAI will have to sell to secure regulatory clearance for their planned merger, newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore said on Sunday.
The French insurer has "finalised in recent days a formal double mandate" for the operation with UniCredit and Credit Suisse, the Italian paper said.
In the past, AXA has expressed interest in the Italian market. An authoritative source told Reuters earlier this year the French group had been approached last year to take over Fondiaria but had declined.
AXA was not immediately available for comment.
Besides the French group, German insurer Allianz, Switzerland's Zurich Insurance Group, Italy's Cattolica and U.S. Liberty International are also interested, Il Sole 24 Ore said.
Unipol agreed to take over Fondiaria back in January to create what will be Italy's No. 2 insurance player.
As a condition of the deal the competition watchdog called on the Italian insurers to shed portfolio assets. Unipol has said it will sell 1.7 billion euros of premiums.
Merging Fondiaria with Unipol would create a company with 32 percent of Italy's non-life insurance market and around 37 percent of its motor insurance business, able to compete with Italy's biggest insurer Assicurazioni Generali. (Reporting By Stephen Jewkes. Additional reporting by Lionel Laurent in Paris; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)