Axa SA (AXAHY) shares climbed more than 2% in early trading Wednesday after the insurance group announced plans to sell a minority stake in its US operations through an initial public offering, freeing cash for new investment and a possible payment to shareholders.
AXA said the US business was slated to include its US Life & Savings business as well as its 64% stake in fund manager AllianceBernstein (AB) . The announcement comes just over a week after AXA strengthened its grip on New York-based AllianceBernstein by ousting nine directors, including all the independent board members and longtime Chairman and CEO Peter Kraus.
Shares in Europe's second largest insurer popped to the top of France's key CAC-40 index, trading 2% higher at €25.03 each in the opening 45 minutes of trading.
"We believe the current environment is supportive of this strategic initiative which would create significant additional financial flexibility to accelerate the transformation of the AXA Group around Health, Capital-light Savings, Protection and P&C commercial lines, our priority lines of business," said AXA CEO Thomas Buberl in a statement. "At the same time, we are convinced our US operations would be better positioned as a listed company in the US, operating on a level-playing field under local regulatory rules."