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Carlyle, Large Money Managers Most Likely Bidders For AXA PE–UPDATED

Today’s big news is that AXA has put its private equity fund manager up for sale.

Credit Suisse is advising on the sale, according to my coworkers at Thomson Reuters. AXA PE could be valued at roughly 500 million Euros or $672 million, Bloomberg News says. Sky News, which first reported the sale, says AXA PE could fetch $1.5 billion.

Paris-based AXA PE manages roughly $28 billion of assets. The unit is part of AXA Investment Managers.

Who would be interested? The most likely buyer is the Carlyle Group, which inked a similar deal earlier this year, sources say. Washington D.C.-based Carlyle agreed to buy a 60% stake in AlpInvest Partners, a fund of fund firm that also makes direct investments, earlier this year. AlpInvest had 32.3 billion Euros (US$43.3 billion) in assets at the time. Harbourvest Partners and Grosvenor Capital Management had reportedly bid for AlpInvest but lost, according to press reports.

The most likely bidders for AXA PE will likely be large asset managers, which could include BlackRock, Invesco and Franklin Resources, persons say. Partners Group could also be interested as well as the Blackstone Group, a PE source says.

UPDATE: A second PE exec says AXA is selling “a piece” or control of the GP. In addition to Carlyle and Blackstone, KKR, TPG, TA Associates, Hellman & Friedman and Warburg Pincus will likely be interested. Other strategics that will probably look at AXA PE include Lexington Partners and Collier Capital and Cambridge Associates. A few insurance firms like John Hancock or New York Life, who would like to add to their book, may also get involved, the PE exec says.

AXA PE will likely sell for a low double digit earnings multiple, the source says.

“This is a manager and there are no follow on capital requirements so this will be of interest to a lot of people,” the source says. “It should be a fairly active process.”

But any buyer would need a “big capital base” or some kind of commitment from AXA to continue funding, another PE source says. “A big issue would be forward funding requirements for all the PE commitments…I think this is a very large portfolio so that will add complexity and narrow the buyer universe,” the person says.