Morningstar Inc. is close to a deal to expand into Australia and New Zealand, the company said.

The Chicago-based investment information company plans to buy a stake in FPG Research Ltd., which has operations in both countries, in what the companies are describing as a joint venture.

A deal is expected by April 1, said Bevin Desmond, international business development manager for Morningstar.

The prospective deal, under which FPG would take the Morningstar name, would create the first international research and publishing operation in Australia and New Zealand.

Australia has $270 billion of assets under management and New Zealand has less than $10 billion of assets under management.

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