* Management buyout values business at 510 mln euros
* Long-flagged sale comes ahead of new insurance rules
* AXA to continue to invest in private equity funds
By Anjuli Davies
LONDON, March 22 (Reuters) - Insurer AXA is to sell part of its private equity arm in a management buyout valuing the business at 510 million euros ($662.85 million), cashing in on its stake in one of France's largest buyout firms.
The long-flagged deal - AXA started the sales process in September 2011 - makes Europe's No. 2 insurer the latest French financial group to retreat from private equity, following banks such as Credit Agricole and BNP Paribas.
The deal comes a little over a year, for example, after Credit Agricole sold its private equity unit for more than 300 million euros.
AXA, which has put a priority on growth in emerging markets, will reap a 200 million euro capital gain from the deal, which still has to be approved by staff representatives and regulators.
AXA sought buyers for the business, which owns stakes in companies such as Europe's largest online travel agency Odigeo, ahead of new insurance regulations that require insurers to hold more capital. AXA has denied any link between the sale and these new requirements.
"We intend to continue to invest in AXA Private Equity funds, with an expected total commitment of approximately euro 4.8 billion between 2014 and 2018," AXA Chief Financial Officer Gerald Harlin said in a statement, confirming the deal.
The group hired Credit Suisse in September 2011 to explore its options for the business, which has $31 billion of assets under management.
It is run by Dominique Senequier, one of France's best-known female executives, who along with other managers will acquire 40 percent of the business, with AXA retaining 27 percent.
The remaining stake will be held by a group of institutional investors and wealthy French investors.
AXA shares were down 0.1 percent, slightly underperforming the European sector, which closed 0.1 percent higher.
The company's official announcement was made after the market had closed.