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Four firms in mega-merger
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Four firms in mega-merger

Four law firms have shared the spoils in one of the largest and possibly most important mergers in recent Australian memory.The $14 billion merger between AMP and Axa Asia Pacific (APH) was…

Four law firms have shared the spoils in one of the largest and possibly most important mergers in recent Australian memory.

The $14 billion merger between AMP and Axa Asia Pacific (APH) was given the green light by APH shareholders last week and the Victorian Supreme Court today (7 March) after the Treasurer Wayne Swan said the acquisition of the Australian and New Zealand arms of AHP would be in the national interest.

"The combined strength of AMP and Axa Asia Pacific, with a larger consolidated balance sheet and broader capital base, will allow the merged entity to compete vigorously with the major banks across both the Australian wealth management and banking sectors," Swan said in a statement.

Financial analysts have commented that the merger between the two large wealth management companies could challenge the position of the "big four" banks in the Australian finance sector.

Negotiations on the deal stretched for well over a year, with Clayton Utz acting for AMP and national M&A chair Rod Halstead and Jonathan Algar leading the firm's team.

Mallesons Stephen Jaques acted for AHP, with Stephen Minns, the firm's M&A co-head, leading. He was assisted by group of fellow partners that included Caroline Coops, Joseph Muraca, Alison Lansley, Phil Davies and Joanne Cameron.

"The end result reflected a very good deal for APH shareholders," Minns said.

Freehills advised AHP's parent company, the French based global insurance group Axa SA. Partners Quentin Digby and Baden Furphy led the firm's team, with Digby first acting for Axa SA in 1995 when it acquired a controlling interest in National Mutual. Norton Rose provided advice to Axa with regard to Asian regulatory issues, with Singapore-based corporate partner Jake Robson acting as the firm's main adviser.

AMP first flagged an interest in AHP in November 2009 with the National Australia bank also mounting a rival bid shortly after. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission rejected the NAB bid on the grounds of market concentration.

Minns added that while there is still a degree of caution in the M&A market, he is hopeful there will be further deals of this size throughout the year.

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