French insurer AXA weighs sale of S'pore business to raise cash

AXA is considering a sale of its Singapore business as it seeks to raise funds divesting peripheral operations, according to people familiar with the matter.

The French insurer is working with an adviser on the potential sale, the sources said, asking not to be identified because it is a private matter.

The Singapore unit, which offers life and property and casualty insurance, could draw interest from rivals seeking to expand in South-east Asia, the sources said. It generated €615 million (S$994 million) of revenue last year, according to AXA’s annual report.

A sale process could start as soon as the next few weeks, the sources said. No final decisions have been made and there is no certainty that the deliberations will lead to a transaction, they added. A representative for Paris-based AXA declined to comment.

AXA and a local partner are also considering a potential sale of their life and general insurance venture in Malaysia, which could fetch about US$650 million (S$891 million), Bloomberg News reported last year.

AXA said this month that an agreement it struck to sell its AXA Life Europe business to Cinven had been terminated after certain conditions were not met.

Chief executive Thomas Buberl is trying to shift AXA’s focus on property and casualty insurance following its US$15.3 billion purchase of XL Group in 2018.

Since then, Mr Buberl has been reviewing options for smaller businesses across the world, including in the Middle East, to help pay for the XL deal.

Profit at AXA sank in the first half as it booked a €1.5 billion charge for claims related to Covid-19. AXA warned of further shocks from the coronavirus pandemic, scrapped growth targets and cancelled a payout to shareholders.

Deal making in the insurance industry has remained resilient amid a slowdown in broader mergers and acquisitions activity amid the pandemic.

Insurers have been involved in US$99 billion of acquisitions this year, up 77 per cent from the same period last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.


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