AXA Asia Pacific Holdings (Axa APH) yesterday rejected an A$11bn (£6.1bn) break-up bid from Australian wealth management firm AMP and its parent company Axa, frustrating the French insurer’s hopes of aggressively increasing its footprint in Asia.<br /><br />The news came as Axa, chaired by Henri de Castries, said it plans to raise €2bn (£1.8bn) in a rights issue to finance future acquisitions.<br /><br />Axa and AMP had clubbed together to put forward a complex deal under which AMP would pay a mixture of cash and shares for Axa APH at A$5.34 per share, valuing the company at around A$11bn. It would then sell on the firm’s Asian assets to Axa in return for the French firm’s 54 per cent stake in the Australasian operations and a further A$1.8bn in cash.<br /><br />But Axa APH chairman Rick Allert promptly rebutted the bid, saying it “significantly undervalues” the firm.<br /><br />“The proposal has been received against the backdrop of recent weakness in global financial markets and before the growth of our Asian operations is fully reflected in our profitability,” he said.<br /><br />Axa previously tried to buy out Axa APH’s assets in August 2004 for A$3.1bn, but was knocked back.<br /><br />Meanwhile, Axa’s 15.6 per cent stake in China’s fourth-biggest life insurer, Taikang, attracted bids from numerous foreign and domestic bidders, including Blackstone, Temasek, KKR and Bain Capital, valuing the holding at over $1bn (£598m).<br /><br /><strong>RICK ALLERT<br />CHAIRMAN, AXA ASIA PACIFIC HOLDINGS<br /></strong>AXA Asia Pacific Holdings (Axa APH) is responsible for the Axa group’s life insurance and wealth management operations in the Asia Pacific region, with divisions in Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, India, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand.<br /><br />It was established as National Mutual in Australia in 1869 and demutualised in 1995, at which point Axa took control of a 51 per cent stake in the group in return for a $1.1bn investment. The firm kept its National Mutual name until 1999, at which point it underwent a rebranding to Axa APH to “reflect its position in the global Axa group”.<br /><br />Axa APH is chaired by Rick Allert, 66, who became a director at the group in 1995. He was formerly chairman of Australian retail chain operator Coles Group, winemaker Southcorp and Voyages Hotels and Resorts.<br /><br />His cohort at the helm of the firm is 45-year-old chief executive Andrew Penn, who has held the position since October 2006. He is also a director at investment management group AllianceBernstein in Australia and New Zealand.<br /><br />Axa APH previously fought off another takeover bid from its French parent back in August 2004, when Axa launched an A$3.1bn offer to buy out the 48.3 per cent of the firm it did not already own at A$3.75 a share. The proposed transaction valued Axa APH at A$6.5bn, in comparison to the nominal A$11bn price tag slapped on it by yesterday’s joint offer from Axa and AMP.<br /><br />AXA chairman Henri de Castries is keen to up the group’s presence in the Asia Pacific region. Outright ownership of Axa APH’s assets would effectively double the group’s exposure to Asian life insurance savings, including in China and India.