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Axa is to sell Elevate, a business which handles nearly £10bn of UK investments, to Edinburgh-based insurer Standard Life.
The move is one of a trio of deals worth up to €830m in total that will complete the French group’s exit from UK life assurance.
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Last week it sold an Isle of Man based offshore investment bonds business to Life Company Consolidation Group for an undisclosed sum. The third piece of the jigsaw, Sun Life, is still on the block. Phoenix Group, which specialises in buying life assurance businesses that are closed to new customers, is the leading bidder.
“These transactions would allow Axa to rebalance the focus of its UK activities towards property & casualty, health and asset management”, said Paul Evans, chief executive of Axa UK.
Axa, which is being advised by Fenchurch Advisory Partners and Barclays, put the three businesses on the block last year and had initially wanted to sell them all in a single deal. It sold the bulk of its UK life assurance operation to Resolution for £2.75bn in 2010.
Elevate is a so-called platform business, which allows customers to hold a wide range of investments in a single place. It operates through independent financial advisers, and administers £9.8bn of assets for 160,000 people.
The price of the deal was not disclosed but Andy Hughes, analyst at Macquarie, estimates that Elevate is worth about £50m, with another £50m required to merge IT systems. He says that the platform has lost about £110m since 2008.
Standard Life will add Elevate to its own platform business, giving it a total of £36bn under administration for 350,000 customers. Standard Life has for a number of years been moving away from traditional life assurance business, which require a significant amount of upfront capital, to focus more on fee-based operations such as investment platforms and asset management.
“We view the acquisition as a good opportunistic move that delivers scale whilst removing opportunities for its competitors,” said Barrie Cornes, analyst at Panmure Gordon. “Ultimately we suspect that the platforms will be merged but this might be a number of years off.”
The deal, says Mr Cornes, will give Standard Life a 15 per cent market share of the £250bn of assets held on platforms in the UK.
Axa’s UK life assurance and savings businesses generated revenues of €700m last year, against €4.7bn for its property & casualty operation.
On Tuesday the French group reported its first-quarter results, with revenues flat at €31.8bn.
Courtesy : ft.com