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AXA still not spent

AXA may have just spent more than $210 million buying one of New Zealand's biggest financial planning firms, but it's shopping spree isn't yet over.

Friday, October 19th 2001, 7:13AM

by Philip Macalister

"We are still looking," New Zealand chief executive Ross McEwan says.

He says the decision to buy Sterling Grace, the company which owns Spicers Portfolio Management, Arcus Investment Management, Assure and Monitor Money in Australia, gives it critical mass in the market place.

He says that once the deal is finalised next month AXA will have about 13% of the market in New Zealand.

This is AXA's second purchase this year. Earlier it helped Wellington-based firm Cameron Chote buy the financial planning business of KPMG.

McEwan says AXA plans to keep Spicers running as an independent business unit.

"We won't be changing the business model," McEwan says. "We have bought this business not to change the model."

Sterling Grace is a vertically integrated investment advisory business with its own funds, distribution and administration system.

However, some issues will be discussed such as what products Spicers sell.

For instance Spicers could start selling AXA's insurance products and it could use AXA (or Alliance Capital) funds in its investment mix.

McEwan says these are issues that will be discussed with Spicers' management.

However, he notes the acquisition was done "as a play on the investment side (of the industry) rather than the risk side."

McEwan acknowledges there is a risk that advisers or clients may leave the firm now it is owned by a major fund manager.

However, AXA's experience with Cameron Chote is that clients see AXA's ownership as a positive.

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

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