As Axa Deal Rumors Swirl, What About AB?
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Tuesday, October 03, 2017

As Axa Deal Rumors Swirl, What About AB?

As asset management deal rumors swirl around Axa, AB (formerly AllianceBernstein) seems to be uninvolved for now. Yet that U.S. IPO is still just over the horizon.

In recent weeks, various publications including Bloomberg, Citywire, and Reuters have all reported that management at the French multinational insurer has been in talks with management at BNP Paribas (France's biggest bank) and Natixis (a French multinational, multiboutique asset manager that's also on this side of the pond) about the future of Axa Investment Management, Axa's European asset management arm. The rumors point to Axa considering a joint venture or merger, which reports liken to the 2010 creation of what is now the biggest asset manager in France, Amundi, by the merger of SocGen's and Credit Agricole's asset management businesses.

Amundi is also in on the current Axa deal talks, an unnamed source tells Reuters, yet "talks are not currently intense with Amundi."

Yet none of the reports about a possible European asset management deal mention Axa's U.S. businesses, including AB. This spring in the wake of the departure of AB's then-chief, Peter Kraus, Axa CEO Thomas Buberl revealed plans sell a minority stake in Axa's U.S. holdings (which includes Axa's majority stake in publicly traded AB) via an IPO. At the time the IPO was targeted for sometime in the first half of 2018.

If Axa does an asset management deal with Natixis or Amundi, perhaps the effects will spill over to the mutual fund business on this side of the Atlantic. Natixis and Amundi now both have big advisor-sold asset management businesses in the U.S., businesses that could in theory tap into the Axa IM investing capabilities for products here, too.

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