In a move that would vastly expand its U.S. assets under management, the French banking giant Societe Generale Group said Wednesday that it plans to buy a majority stake in TCW Group, an $80 billion-asset Los Angeles asset manager.

The deal, valued at $1.2 billion, is set to be completed in two stages over five years. Since 70% of TCW's assets are managed for institutions, the deal would also give the Paris-based banking company a large U.S. institutional client base for its international asset management capabilities, which stretch from Asia to continental Europe and Britain. Currently just 2% of its $147.42 billion of assets are in the U.S. market. That would jump to 34% after a combination with TCW. Philippe Collas, chairman and chief executive of SG Asset Management, said the transaction would complete a four-pronged global strategy that's been underway for some time. In recent years Societe Generale has bought an asset manager in Japan and built one from scratch in Britain to add to its European presence.

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