AXA interested in Itau insurance assets

PREIGNAC, France, June 6 Fri Jun 6, 2014 4:00pm EDT

PREIGNAC, France, June 6 (Reuters) - French insurance group AXA is interested in buying insurance assets put up for sale by Brazilian bank Itau Unibanco, Chief Executive Henri de Castries said on Friday.

Itau said in January its high-risk corporate insurance unit - specialising in segments such as oil and gas, and infrastructure - was for sale. Analysts said at the time the business should fetch about 1 billion reais ($424 million).

The unit has annual revenue of about 1.7 billion reais and clients including state-oil company PetrĂ³leo Brasileiro SA.

"It is something that is being offered, and I would be surprised if we were the only ones" to see the opportunity, de Castries said at a presentation in Preignac, in southwestern France.

Faced with low interest rates in the United States and the euro zone, AXA has sold some of its businesses in developed markets and spent 5 billion euros ($6.8 billion) since 2010 on acquiring companies in countries such as China and Colombia.

AXA said in February it was looking for more acquisitions in emerging markets.

"The only hole in the picture is Brazil," de Castries said, although he said he was in no rush. ($1 = 2.36 Brazilian reais) ($1 = 0.7332 Euros) (Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Writing by Andrew Callus; Editing by James Regan)