HSBC Holdings Plc and Malayan Banking Bhd.’s insurance venture are among shortlisted bidders for AXA SA’s business in Singapore, which could raise about $700 million in a sale, according to people familiar with the matter.
The British bank and Etiqa, majority owned by a Maybank joint venture, have proceeded into the next round with a few weeks to go before a deadline for submitting binding bids, the people said. At least one Chinese firm also among those invited to lodge offers, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private.
Axa has been considering a sale of its Singapore business as it seeks to raise funds divesting peripheral operations, Bloomberg News reported last August. Chief Executive Officer Thomas Buberl is trying to shift AXA’s focus on property and casualty insurance following its $15.3 billion purchase of XL Group Ltd. in 2018. Since then, the CEO has been reviewing options for smaller businesses across the world, including in the Middle East, to help pay for the XL deal.
The Singapore unit, which offers life and property and casualty insurance, generated 615 million euros ($745 million) of revenue in 2019, according to AXA’s annual report. It also provides services in savings and investments, its website shows.
HSBC plans to accelerate its expansion across Asia in its imminent strategy refresh, Chairman Mark Tucker told the virtual Asian Financial Forum this week. The lender had said last year that it would speed up investments in the region, where it draws the bulk of its profit but was grappling with risks from Hong Kong politics and the coronavirus outbreak.
Etiqa began in 2005 when Maybank Ageas, a joint venture between Maybank and Ageas SA, merged with Malaysia’s National Insurance Bhd. The firm provides general and life insurance, according to its website. It also operates in Singapore.
Deliberations are ongoing and bidders could still decide to withdraw from the process, the people said. A representative for AXA didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment, while a representative for HSBC declined to comment. Chris Eng, chief strategy officer for Etiqa, said the company continuously looks for opportunities and value across Southeast Asia, declining to provide further comment.
–With assistance from Yantoultra Ngui, Alexandre Rajbhandari and Elffie Chew.
Photograph: The central business district skyline from the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Photo credit: Lauryn Ishak/Bloomberg