In a continuing effort to expand distribution of its mutual fund products, American Express Financial Advisors has allied itself with two Axa Financial subsidiaries.

The deal pairs the credit card giant's subsidiary with Equitable Life Assurance Society and Alliance Capital Management, both of New York. American Express is to distribute some of its funds through Equitable's variable annuity products, and Alliance Capital is to sell its funds through Amex. Sales are to begin in September.

Two American Express funds - AXP New Dimensions Fund and AXP Strategy Aggressive Portfolio - are to be added as insurance subaccounts in Equitable's variable annuity and variable universal life products. Subaccounts are investment options offered to buyers of insurance products.

David Kanihan, a spokesman for American Express Financial Advisors, said this is the first time Amex funds are being included in an annuity, though Amex has annuities of its own.

"We recently started to make forays into third-party distribution," Mr. Kanihan said. "We need to be more aggressive about making our funds more competitive."

American Express Financial Advisors is actively seeking additional fund-sales partners among other financial planners, broker-dealers, and banks.

The Axa deal is "not just a blip," Mr. Kanihan said.

The agreement is intended to package the Amex funds with an established group of products, Mr. Kanihan said.

"Axa and Equitable have a very successful variable annuity right now," he said.

Alliance Capital spokeswoman Shira Zackai said: "We're very pleased about this deal. "We feel that American Express has great distribution capabilities, and we feel this is the beginning of a significant relationship between our firms." She noted that Alliance Capital, which has about $394 billion of assets under management, also distributes its funds through brokers, other financial advisers, and banks.

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