NAB’s £8.5bn bid is vetoed by watchdog

City A.M. Reporter
Australia’s competition watchdog blocked National Australia Bank’s (NAB) A$13.3bn (£8.5bn) bid for AXA Asia Pacific, putting the agreed deal in limbo and allowing rival bidder AMP to make a comeback.

AXA Asia Pacific, owned 54 per cent by French insurer AXA, is Australia’s sixth-largest wealth manager and a hot takeover target in a £650bn market that is one of the fastest-growing parts of the financial services industry.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission yesterday defied expectations it would give conditional approval for the NAB offer, instead issuing a flat rejection and saying an NAB takeover would hurt competition for retail investors.

However the regulator approved a lapsed £7.9bn offer from AMP, effectively breathing new life into a bid that had been all but written off.

The stage is now set for either NAB to quickly restructure its offer to overcome the regulator’s concerns or for AMP to bounce back with a new and higher offer, analysts said after the decision was announced yesterday.

The regulator said an NAB takeover of AXA Asia Pacific would hurt competition by reducing the number of retail investment platforms in the market.