Axa weighs sale of Singapore business to raise cash

SINGAPORE: Axa SA 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 people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private.

The Singapore unit, which offers life and property and casualty insurance, could draw interest from rivals seeking to expand in southeast Asia, the people said. It generated US$723 million of revenue in 2019, according to Axa’s annual report.

A sale process could start as soon as the next few weeks, the people said. No final decisions have been made, and there’s no certainty the deliberations will lead to a transaction, the people said. 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, 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 weren’t met.

Chief Executive Officer Thomas Buberl is trying to shift Axa’s focus on property and casualty insurance following its US$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.

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

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

Insurers have been involved in US$99 billion of acquisitions this year, up 77% from the same period in 2019, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.