WEALTH MANAGEMENT | Tony Chua, Australia

NAB to seek asset buyers of investment manager Axa Asia

Lender in negotiation to dispose assets to win approval of Australia’s regulator.

National Australia Bank Ltd. is in talks with potential buyers for one of Axa Asia Pacific Holdings Ltd.’s assets as it tries to gain regulatory approval to buy the investment manager, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

The Melbourne-based bank is in discussions to sell Axa Asia’s North platform, an Internet portal offering investment and pension products, one of the people said, declining to be identified because the plans are private. Australian Competition & Consumer Commission Chairman Graeme Samuel said Friday in an interview that National Australia Bank’s ownership of North would hurt competition.

The regulator last month blocked National Australia Bank’s December agreement to buy Axa Asia Pacific together with Axa SA, the Paris-based insurer that owns 54 percent of Axa Asia, for A$13.3 billion ($11.3 billion). It cited National Australia Bank gaining control of North as a main antitrust concern.

"We’re reviewing all our options," National Australia Bank spokeswoman Meaghan Telford said in an interview. She declined to comment on the talks. Francine McMullen, a spokeswoman for Axa Asia Pacific, declined to comment.

It isn’t clear if a sale of North would convince the watchdog to clear the deal, the people said. Samuel declined to comment on whether the agency would change its stance if National Australia Bank sold the asset.

Under the terms of the accord announced 17 December by Axa Asia Pacific and National Australia Bank, the bank would keep the Australian and New Zealand units and sell eight Asian units to Axa SA.

View the full story in Business Week.

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