Axa, the European insurance giant, would like to buy another U.S. life insurance company - for example, a variable-life firm to complement Equitable - its chief financial officer says in a new report.
The Paris company was already on record as not being in the market for a U.S. bank.
Analysts at HSBC Holdings Inc. interviewed Axa CFO Gerard de la Martiniere and released their report Thursday.
Axa has been prominent among the European financial services giants that have been flexing their muscles in North America. Others include HSBC, the London-based banking and financial company.Mr. de la Martiniere said his company is also looking to make further insurance acquisitions in Italy and Spain.
"There is still significant need for further consolidation," he said, according to the HSBC report.
Axa is the largest insurer in Europe and has insurance and financial services holdings throughout the world. In addition to owning Equitable Life Assurance Society of the U.S. outright it owns interests in several other U.S. businesses, including a 70% interest in Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette and a 57% stake in mutual fund company Alliance Capital Management.
Those companies are part of Axa Financial, the French company's New York-based U.S. subsidiary. In April, Michael Hegarty, vice chairman and chief operating officer of Axa Financial, said the company was not looking to make bank acquisitions in the United States.
"We want the freedom to distribute through as many desktops as possible," he said. Axa products are already sold through banks, and hooking up with just one would limit the distribution possibilities, he said. Axa has, however, applied for a thrift charter in the United States.
Axa's intentions of making more insurance acquisitions have been quite clear for some time now, said Nick Holmes, the HSBC analyst who interviewed Mr. de la Martiniere. "Everybody is well aware that Axa is on the lookout."
Currently, however, Axa "must concentrate on maximizing the returns on our existing investments," Mr. de la Martiniere said, noting the acquisition of Japanese life insurance company Nippon Dantai, which Axa bought in March.
One company that Axa will not be buying is London-based Equitable Life Assurance Society, which recently put itself on the block. Mr. de la Martiniere said Axa does not like to get involved in open bidding, which is how Equitable Life will likely be sold.
An Axa spokesman in Paris said the company does not comment on analyst reports.
The financial giant brought in revenues of about $21 billion in the first quarter, the most recent for which data are available, up from $16.1 billion a year earlier. Axa attributed its growth to strong performance in its life insurance segments in the United States and France as well as the contribution of its investment management and financial services subsidiaries.