NU Online News Service, Sept. 17, 2003, 7:47 p.m. EDT – AXA Financial Inc., New York, has announced an agreement to acquire The MONY Group Inc., New York, for $1.5 billion in cash.

The deal price amounts to $31 per share, or 106.2% of MONY’s Sept. 16 closing share price.

The boards of both companies have approved the deal, but the companies still need approval from regulators and MONY shareholders. The companies hope to complete the deal in early 2004.

“This is a great opportunity for AXA Financial to add scale to its operations,” AXA Financial President Christopher Condron says in a statement about the deal.

AXA Financial, the U.S. arm of AXA S.A., Paris, and the parent of The Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States, New York, controls $458 billion in assets.

MONY, which owns Advest Inc., Hartford, a regional brokerage firm, as well as a large life insurance operation, manages or administers $55 billion in assets.

The MONY deal should help AXA Financial expand its retail insurance and annuity distribution by almost 25%, Condron says.

In 2002, AXA Financial and MONY together would have been the biggest U.S. provider of new variable life insurance coverage and the fourth biggest provider of new variable annuities, the companies say.

Analysts in the Chicago office of Fitch Ratings reacted to the deal announcement by placing MONY’s ratings on Rating Watch Positive. The move includes the A plus insurer financial strength ratings that Fitch has given MONY’s main insurance subsidiaries.

“If MONY is acquired by AXA Financial, then its ratings will likely be upgraded one or two notches after the transaction is completed,” Fitch says.

MONY has a strong career agency force, a solid capital position and a recognized brand name, but it has been reporting weak profits, Fitch says.

Although AXA has been suffering lately from stock market volatility, it is a big, strong financial services provider that has solid market positions in the life insurance, annuity and asset accumulation businesses in the United States, Fitch says.

MONY has filed a Form 8-K with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that includes a copy of the AXA Financial/MONY deal agreement. The HTML version of the filing is on the Web at http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1069822/000119312503051086/0001193125-03-051086-index.htm