AXA to sell AXA Wealth, Sunlife to Phoenix Group Holdings

French insurance giant AXA is to sell its UK non-platform investment and pensions business, AXA Wealth, and its Sunlife direct protection business to Phoenix Group Holdings, the company announced today.

Based in London, Phoenix Group is a FTSE 250-listed, closed-life insurance fund consolidator that specialises in the management and acquisition of closed life and pension funds. It changed its name from Pearl Group in 2010.

Phoenix Group is headed up by group chief executive Clive Bannister, who joined the company from HSBC, where he had been group managing director of insurance and asset management.

The deal is subject to regulatory approvals, and is expected to complete in the second part of this year, AXA said in a statement.

AXA said that the sale announced today, along with the divestment of its offshore life business based in the Isle of Man announced last month, and the sale of its Elevate platform unveiled on 4 May, would generate a combined total of around £632m. However, it added that they would also generate a balance sheet loss of around €400m, as the businesses  being sold would be treated as discontinued operations in the company’s 2016 consolidated financial statements.

AXA has been divesting itself of other operations in recent months, and this sale had been rumoured. As reported, it announced at the end of April that it would sell its Isle of Man offshore investment business to the Life Company Consolidation Group, which was founded in 2013 with the purpose of buying and consolidating life company books across Europe.

It also sold several Portuguese businesses to Ageas, for €189m.

In February, though, it acquired an 8% stake in a Nigerian online retail group called Africa Internet, in what was seen as a move by the insurance company to get in early on a growing means of reaching new clients in one of the world’s potentially largest markets for insurance.

Also today, AXA said it was making a number of changes to its management team that it said were aimed at providing support for incoming chief executive Thomas Buberl, in the area of defining and implementing the group’s strategy and management of its global operations.

The changes see current AXA UK chief executive Paul Evans being named to the 10-member AXA Group Management Committee, as well as being appointed CEO of AXA Global Life & Savings and AXA Global Health.

He is one of six existing company executives who are joining the new management committee, which the company said will look to “reinforce the role of large countries (Large Markets) and Global Business Lines, while the group’s Regions will be re-positioned to focus on the development of emerging and smaller markets (Emerging Markets), in Asia and in the rest of the world.”

To see the AXA statement on its management changes in full, on the AXA corporate website, click here.

To see a timeline detailing the history of Phoenix Group Holdings, which dates back to 1864 and a company originally called Pearl Life Assurance Loan and Investment Co Ltd,  click here.

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