<!-- Swiftype Variables -->

Money Management

BNP among firms said to be eyeing AXA Investment Managers tie-up

BNP Paribas is among firms exploring a fund management tie-up with AXA's European asset management unit as the French insurer seeks potential partners for the business, people with knowledge of the matter said.

France's largest bank has studied the feasibility of combining BNP's money management unit with AXA Investment Managers, the people said, declining to be identified because the matter is private. AXA is currently holding talks with competitor Natixis about combining their asset management operations, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

AXA is under growing competition from exchange-traded funds and regulations that encourage consolidation. Any transaction could be a precursor for an eventual initial public offering or partial sale, but no decision has been reached and AXA may decide to retain the investment management unit as it is, the people said. AXA, BNP Paribas and Natixis declined to comment.

While a Natixis purchase of AXA Investment Managers might have "strategic merits," a deal is unlikely given the size, J.P. Morgan Chase analysts wrote in a note. Natixis has focused on smaller acquisitions aimed at filling needs in targeted areas such as equities, alternative investments and emerging markets, they added.

Hurdles in the talks between AXA and Natixis include reaching an agreement on job cuts and cost reductions, people familiar with the discussions said. Which assets and geographies would be involved in any combination is also a point of negotiation, one person said.

AXA Investment Managers oversaw €735 billion ($877 billion) in assets at the end of June, according to its website. The Paris-based business reported annual sales of about €1.2 billion in 2016, a 3% decline from a year earlier.

BNP Paribas Asset Management had €416 billion in assets under management at the end of 2016. It aims to increase that by 5% annually through 2020.

The leader in France remains Amundi, created in 2010 when Credit Agricole and Societe Generale combined their asset management businesses. Societe Generale sold its stake when Amundi went public in Paris in November 2015. The stock has climbed about 50% since then, data compiled by Bloomberg show.