NAB’s A$13bn bid for Axa is blocked again

City A.M. Reporter
National Australia Bank’s A$13.3bn (£8bn) bid for AXA Asia Pacific has been blocked for a second time, dashing its efforts to cement its lead in the world’s fourth-largest wealth management market.

The Australian competition regulator’s decision clears the way for Australia’s second-biggest fund manager AMP to take another tilt at AXA Asia Pacific, after its cash and share offer was trumped by NAB in December.

The ruling dealt another blow to French insurer AXA’s plans to expand in Asia. It was to pick up its unit’s fast-growing Asian assets as part of the bid with NAB, looking to get a tighter grip on the region’s booming markets.

“It is AXA’s strategy of redeploying in Asia that is at stake,” CA Cheuvreux analyst Jean D’Herbecourt said in a note. “AXA now has to re-open negotiations with AMP that will need to be validated by an independent board of AXA APH.”

AXA Asia Pacific shares tumbled as much as 10 per cent to levels not seen since it was put in play last year as investors bet NAB would give up its nine-month fight for the company.

“It is time for NAB to move away from this bid. It has been nearly a year and they don’t need more distractions,” said Tom Elliot, managing director at hedge fund MM&E Capital.

Australia’s top four banks are looking to increase their sway over the A$1.3 trillion wealth market, seen growing more than 10 per cent annually for the next five years on compulsory pension contributions.

AXA, which owns 51 per cent of AXA Asia Pacific, said it was reviewing its options on how to expand in Asia.