AXA considers Standard Life bid

FRENCH insurance giant AXA is considering a £7 billion (€10.4 billion) bid for British insurer Standard Life, according to weekend reports.

The investment bank, Goldman Sachs, is believed to be advising AXA in its assessment of Standard Life, Britain’s largest mutual assurer until it listed in July. Both AXA and Standard Life have so far declined to comment.

AXA, whose British units include AXA Sun Life and PPP Healthcare, has frequently been named as a potential predator in the British market.

Earlier this month, newspapers reported it had teamed up with Swiss Re to bid for Scottish Widows, the insurance arm of Lloyds TSB. Before that, back in April, reports linking it to British insurer Prudential forced the French insurer to take the unusual step of issuing a statement denying any talks.

AXA UK chief executive Nicolas Moreau, the high-flying former chief executive of AXA Investment Managers who took over in July, has said that he will target “bolt-on” acquisitions, preferring “small, cheap deals where you can leverage value“.

Last week AXA snapped up financial advisers Thinc Destini in a £100 million deal to boost distribution.

AXA UK and Ireland represents around 10% of total group revenues for AXA, but it is the eighth largest player in the fragmented British life and pensions market.

The fifth largest British-listed life insurer, Standard Life trades at a discount to the sector, but at current market levels it is worth £5.96 billion.

Separately, Standard Life’s current chief financial officer Alison Reed is set to leave the company today, just over a month after her departure was announced in a flurry of speculation that prompted concerns over management changes at the former mutual.

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