Aug 17, 2021 08:24 PM

HSBC Boosts Asia Expansion With Deal to Buy AXA Singapore

Pedestrians wearing protective masks walk past a HSBC branch in Hong Kong, in September 2020. Photo: VCG
Pedestrians wearing protective masks walk past a HSBC branch in Hong Kong, in September 2020. Photo: VCG

HSBC Holdings PLC has agreed to pay $575 million to buy AXA Insurance Pte. Ltd. (AXA Singapore), the Singapore branch of French insurance group AXA SA, as the bank pursues its strategy of focusing on Asia for growth.

The London-based lender plans to merge the company with its own insurance arm in Singapore to create the city’s seventh-largest life insurer and fourth-largest retail health insurer, HSBC said in a statement announcing the deal on Monday. The bank aims to leverage AXA Singapore’s connections with sales agencies, financial consultancies, policy holders and companies.

The acquisition marks the latest step in HSBC’s plan to pivot its growth strategy to Asia to take advantage of an expanding affluent population and higher demand for wealth management and insurance products and services. The new direction, which was announced in February 2020, involves cutting back its U.S. and European businesses and investing more heavily in the Middle East and Asia.

The bank in May this year announced plans to dispose of most of its U.S. retail banking business and in June agreed to sell its French retail banking operations.

“This is an important acquisition that demonstrates our ambition to grow our wealth business across Asia,” Noel Quinn, group chief executive of HSBC, said in the statement. “Wealth is one of our highest growth and highest return opportunities, and plays to our strengths as an Asia-centred bank with global reach.”

AXA Singapore is a good fit with HSBC’s existing operations and will strengthen the bank’s status as one of Asia’s leading wealth and insurance service providers, he said. The region generates nearly half of HSBC’s $1.7 trillion global wealth balances and 65% of its wealth business revenues. HSBC’s insurance operations worldwide reported a pretax profit of $1.4 billion in 2020. The statement didn’t disclose HSBC’s current market share in wealth management or insurance in Singapore.

Singapore is one of HSBC’s key Asian markets and is a magnet for the wealth management industry, as the rich increasingly relocate their savings to the island nation.

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Paris-based AXA is one of the world’s biggest insurance and asset management companies. AXA Singapore, which reported revenue of 579 million euros ($660 million) and a profit of 20 million euros in 2020, serves about 1 million customers and is the island state’s eighth-largest life insurer with a 2% market share and fifth-largest property and casualty insurer with a 4% market share. Gordon Watson, AXA’s Asia and Africa CEO, said in a statement that shedding the Singapore branch is in line with the company’s “simplification journey.”

The deal is pending regulatory approval and expected to close by the fourth quarter of 2021, AXA said.

Wei Yiyang contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Zhang Yukun ( and editor Nerys Avery (

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