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Spicers sold

One of New Zealand's biggest financial planning firms, Spicers, has been sold for more than $245 million.

Wednesday, October 17th 2001, 9:48PM

by Philip Macalister

AXA has bought Sterling Grace Portfolio Management, the company that owns Spicers in New Zealand, for more than $245 million (A$201 mill).

The deal makes AXA the biggest investment management business in New Zealand with about 13% of the market.

Sterling Grace Portfolio Management is 73% owned by US company Sterling Grace. The business has A$2.6 billion under management and includes Spicers Portfolio Management and Arcus Investment Management in New Zealand, Monitor Money in Australia, and Australasian administration firm Assure.

As reported earlier on Good Returns, Sterling Grace had an information memorandum in the market place essentially seeking expressions of interest.

The company's default option was a sell-down to secure a new cornerstone shareholder and then to do an IPO on the Australian Stock Exchange early next year.

In the end AXA came along with a sweet enough deal to ensure it acquired the business lock stock and barrel.

While AXA hasn't officially announced its plans, Good Returns understands it will keep the business as a separate entity and continue to run it as it is.

Sterling Grace was looking to raise capital to help it expand and to buy the 50% of Monitor Money it didn't own.

AXA on the other hand has been actively looking to grow its funds management and advisory business in Australia and New Zealand.

"Over the past two years we have set out a very clear strategic focus for AXA Australia and New Zealand focused on wealth management and financial protection," AXA group chief executive Les Owen says.

"The acquisition of Spicers and Monitor Money represents a major step forward in implementing our strategy."

"In New Zealand, Spicers and AXA will, together, be the pre-eminent retail investment manager and provider of financial planning services with around 13% market share in funds under administration. The acquisition of Monitor Money will accelerate our growth and penetration into the independent financial planning market in Australia".

Sterling Grace has 62 in house advisers and 26 offices throughout New Zealand, and 26 in house advisers and 9 offices in Australia.

You can read Philip's blog here: http://www.goodreturns.co.nz/blog/

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