Oct. 3 (Bloomberg) -- 3i Group Plc, the U.K.’s largest publicly traded buyout firm, is exploring whether to bid for the private-equity fund unit of insurer Axa SA, four people with knowledge of the talks said.
3i, based in London, hired Blackstone Group LP’s advisory unit to provide counsel on an offer for Axa Private Equity, said two of the people, who declined to be identified because the talks are private. 3i may make an offer this week, when first- round bids are due, they said.
The Paris-based business, led by Dominique Senequier, manages about $28 billion in assets for Axa and clients such as pension and sovereign wealth funds. 3i has added new fund- management businesses as Chief Executive Officer Michael Queen strives to improve profitability, buying Mizuho Investment Management U.K. Ltd. last year.
Axa, France’s biggest insurer, said last week that it would examine options for the buyout business. The insurer has already attracted interest from KKR & Co. and Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec, Canada’s largest pension-fund manager, people with knowledge of the talks said last week.
Officials for 3i and Axa Private Equity declined to comment. Spokesmen for Blackstone and Axa couldn’t immediately comment.
Private-equity firms such as New York-based KKR and Washington-based Carlyle Group are diversifying beyond leveraged buyouts and increasing assets under management to ensure steadier fee income.
Axa Private Equity holds stakes in U.S. and European buyout funds run by firms including KKR, Blackstone and BC Partners Ltd. It also invests directly in midsize companies and infrastructure projects in Europe.
--With assistance from Brett Foley in London. Editors: Julie Alnwick, Keith Campbell
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