AXA SA, France's largest insurer, is in advanced talks with bidders including Manulife Financial to sell its pension fund unit in Hong Kong, said people with knowledge of the matter.
AXA is seeking about $400 million for the Mandatory Provident Fund business, two of the people said, asking not to be identified because the discussions are confidential. It has also drawn suitors including Sun Life Financial, Principal Financial Group and FIL, according to the people.
AXA looks after the 10th-largest pool of funds in Hong Kong's compulsory retirement program, with HK$15.4 billion ($1.99 billion) of assets under management as of March, according to the Gadbury Group, a research firm that monitors the city's pension market. The pension fund has HK$519 billion in assets.
AXA has disposed of €8.5 billion ($11 billion) of assets in developed markets since 2010. CEO Henri De Castries is pushing to double operating profit from faster-growing markets, including mainland China by 2015.
Evonne Inn, a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman for AXA, said she couldn't immediately comment. Representatives for Manulife, Sun Life, Principal and FIL declined to comment or couldn't immediately be reached.
Manulife, the second-largest manager of MPF funds in Hong Kong, and Sun Life gained share at the expense of smaller providers in the first quarter of this year, according to Gadbury. FIL, known as Fidelity Worldwide Investment, oversaw $290 billion at the end of June.
The MPF program and other retirement options cover more than 80% of the city's employed population, according to a June report from the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority. The pension fund regulator plans to cut costs of retirement pools and might introduce a low-fee fund, it said at the time.