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ANZ to sell OnePath, but remain in market

ANZ has confirmed OnePath is for sale, but has not ruled out a listing for its wealth business.

However, ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott says offloading the business may not happen this year.

The bank is seeking a partner to run the wealth business, but is not pulling out of the Australian marketplace.

“We have an obligation to provide [wealth] solutions to our customers,” Mr Elliott said. “But that doesn’t mean we need to be manufacturing the product.

“We’re not just putting a ‘for sale’ sign up.”

ANZ’s wealth business is dominated by life insurer OnePath, which operates primarily in the retail space.

With a possible price tag of $4.5 billion, it is expected only the largest global life insurers will be interested in the business, which also includes financial advice dealer groups.

Various names have been suggested, including AIA, AMP, Dai-ichi Life, MetLife and Prudential.

TAL owner Dai-ichi may run into competition problems because it is Australia’s largest insurer. However, it has deep pockets, so may not consider regulatory hurdles a problem.

MetLife has been aggressively pursuing a bigger role in the Australian life market, as has AIA in the retail space, and both can afford such a purchase.

AMP may not be a serious bidder while it struggles to return its own life business to profitability. The recent acquisition of Axa may discourage AMP, because it has not been regarded a success.

Prudential would be an interesting bidder because it left the Australian market in 1998, when its local operation was bought first by Colonial and later by Commonwealth Bank. 

Other Japanese and Asian insurers may consider a move, while Canadian insurer Manulife, which has a large Asian presence, has ruled out moving into Australia.

Mr Elliott says the bank has an open mind on how a relationship would work with another OnePath owner, “because this is a very different business model than we’ve had today, with the classical vertical integration where we own and operate everything”.

He says the bank will issue an information memorandum on the wealth business, which will be the starting point for discussions.

“This is going to take time,” he said. “This is a pretty big decision.”

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