Axa To Sell Credit Lyonnais Stake to Credit Agricole, Maybe

January 3, 2003

France’s AXA Group, has decided to tacitly back Credit Agricole’s acquisition of Credit Lyonnais (CL) by offering to sell its 5.3% stake, conditioned, however, upon there being no rival bid from BNP Paribas, which holds around 16 percent of CL’s shares.

Credit Agricole topped BNP’s efforts to takeover CL by bidding 56 Euros ($58.50) a share, a total of 19.5 billion Euros ($20.4 billion). BNP has until mid February to decide whether it will increase its own offer for CL, but AXA’s decision to offer its shares to Credit Agricole, even with the condition, seems to indicate that it may not be planning to do so.

AXA has had close ties to BNP, and was instrumental in backing its acquisition of Paribas three years ago, helping it top a rival bid by Société Générale. An AXA spokesman indicated that although the company reserved the right to withdraw its offer, Credit Agricole’s bid was at present the only offer on the table.

Four of Credit Lyonnais’ core shareholders — Assurances Generales de France SA (a subsidiary of Germany’s Allianz), Commerzbank AG, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA and IntesaBCI SpA, had backed Credit Agricole’s offer from the beginning, but AXA had not indicated its decision until yesterday’s announcement. Unless BNP makes a significantly higher bid, their offers will become binding.

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