22 Jun 2010

AMP gets go-ahead to buy AXA businesses

6:35 am on 22 June 2010

The Commerce Commission has given AMP clearance to buy AXA Asia Pacific's New Zealand and Australian business.

In April, the Australian competition watchdog backed AMP's bid, after rejecting a rival bid from National Australia Bank on the grounds that a merger with AXA would make National too powerful.

Commerce Commission chairman Mark Berry says the commission is satisfied AMP's acqusitions of AXA's assets would not substantially lessen competition in any of the affected markets.

AMP says the merger with AXA Asia Pacific's Australian and New Zealand businesses will create a strong wealth manager that will benefit investors and shareholders on both sides of the Tasman.

The buyout is far from a done deal, however.

AMP has already won approval from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which rejected a rival bid from National Australia Bank (NAB) for the same assets, on the grounds that a merger would make National too powerful.

However National Australia Bank and AXA Asia Pacific have since extended their exclusivity agreement until the middle of July, giving the NAB more time to get regulatory approval.

NAB is reportedly in talks to sell its retail investment platform, which would help to fund the acquisition, as well as alleviate the regulator's concerns that it would dominate the retail investment market.

Some analysts question whether the NAB will be able to sell the business, or that a sale would alleviate the Australian regulator's concerns.

AMP won't be drawn on whether it will offer a higher bid to trump NAB's $A14 billion bid, but some analysts suggest it's simply waiting to see if the NAB drops out of the race.