Financial services giant AMP is considering a $4 billion deal which would deliver the ANZ Bank a controlling stake in return for the bank’s ING wealth management business.
Sources close to AMP said the proposal, under which ANZ would emerge with about 30 per cent of AMP, was something of a ”Plan B”.
In league with the French group AXA, AMP bid $12.8 billion in scrip for AXA Asia Pacific’s domestic operations last year but its offer was rejected and subsequently trumped by a $14.2 billion offer from National Australia Bank. The NAB offer has been accepted by the AXA-AP board.
Last week, the AMP chief executive, Craig Dunn, dealt the group back into a bidding duel for AXA Asia Pacific by saying AMP was still in the race and petitioning the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to block NAB’s offer on grounds that it would inhibit competition.
The French parent has yet to endorse the NAB offer, despite the superior price, while it awaits a decision from the regulator.
It is believed the French are keen to wrap up the transaction quickly, so it can proceed with its Asian expansion plans.
AMP has been forced to evaluate fallback options to defend itself in the event it fails to snare AXA Asia Pacific.
And against concerns that the financial services industry is becoming too concentrated, the proposal to buy ING from ANZ would help circumvent competition concerns.
For ANZ’s part, one source said, the deal would provide a distribution channel for its products through AMP while allowing for the chief executive, Mike Smith, to proceed with his expansion into Asia.
ANZ has about 10 per cent of the retail superannuation market versus 18 per cent for AMP and 25 per cent for NAB and AXA combined. In retail managed funds, the shares are 8, 12 and 21 per cent respectively.
The AMP board apparently has been concerned about the limited scope for growth if its tilt for AXA Asia Pacific fails.
Although sources said the matter had not been discussed at board level and there had been no ”official” discussions between AMP and ANZ, they said the proposition ”had merit”.