AXA Asia Pacific halts trade pending takeover news

5th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Takeover target AXA Asia Pacific requested a trading halt Thursday, telling shareholders an announcement was imminent on National Australia Bank's 11.7 billion US dollar bid.

"AXA requests the trading halt pending an announcement to the market regarding the status of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) process in relation to the proposal of the National Australia Bank (NAB)... to acquire the Australian and New Zealand businesses of AXA," the company said.

"AXA requests that the trading halt last until commencement of trading on Monday, 9 August 2010."

NAB said it remained "in discussions with the (ACCC) in relation to the proposal" and would advise the market of any significant developments.

France's AXA SA and NAB agreed in March on the takeover of AXA Asia Pacific, under which the French company would take its subsidiary's Asian arm while NAB would control its Australian and New Zealand businesses.

The transaction would have made NAB one of Australia and New Zealand's leading wealth management groups, with AXA SA gaining a valuable Asian presence.

It was barred by the ACCC in April on competition grounds, but NAB was given time to address the regulator's fears by considering selling AXA Asia Pacific Holding's retail investment platform to avoid having to merge it with NAB's own.

AXA Asia Pacific Holdings this week posted a six percent rise in underlying first-half earnings to 270.3 million Australian dollars on the strength of its Southeast Asian businesses, offsetting a slowdown in Australian operations.

Operating earnings in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines rocketed 90 percent, doubling their contribution to the group's overall earnings.

"With Asian economies generally growing faster than the average for the rest of the world, our exposure to the region is driving an increased contribution to value and earnings," said chief Andrew Penn.

Though the results underscore the lucrativeness of the Asian businesses for AXA's French parent, analysts said the slump in the firm's share price to 5.21 against NAB's 6.43 offer cast doubt on the deal's value to the bank.

-- Dow Jones Newswires contributed to this report --

© 2010 AFP

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