Watchdog will look at NAB’s $12bn Axa buy

City A.M. Reporter
AUSTRALIA’S competition regulator agreed to consult the market on National Australia Bank’s proposals to salvage its $12bn (£7.5bn) takeover of Axa Asia Pacific, giving it a glimmer of hope the deal would succeed.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said yesterday it hoped to rule on the undertakings or some proposed asset sales by 9 September.

Axa and NAB said in a statement they had agreed to extend the period for transaction documents until 9 September to enable the ACCC to “satisfy concerns” it raised.

NAB is hoping its revised offer will ease the concerns of the regulator, which rejected its original proposal in April, and it will then be able to wrap up the long-awaited deal to secure its dominance in the fast growing $1 trillion Australian wealth management market, the world’s fourth largest.

The regulator’s announcement ends weeks of speculation over whether NAB will be able to ease the opposition of the regulator to the deal. Market rumors reached such heights that Axa Asia, a unit of France’s Axa, asked for a halt in the trading of its shares last Thursday.

With the regulator’s move, analysts predicted NAB, Axa Asia Pacific and Axa would extend their agreement beyond its 31 August expiry date.

“This indicates the deal is back in play and NAB is not too far off the mark as previously thought. Can it pull off the deal? It is still a toss of the coin but the tilt is now toward NAB,” said Angus Gluskie, chief investment officer at White Funds Management, which owns NAB and AMP shares.

The ACCC blocked the original deal citing competition worries in the retail investment platform market -- an internet portal that binds the wealth manager with the customer -- and said it favoured a now lapsed takeover deal by second biggest wealth manager AMP.