EQH IPO "belling ringing day" at the New York Stock exchange - May 10, 2018 (Photo: Allison Bell/TA)

AXA Equitable Holdings Inc. shares began trading today on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “EQH.”

AXA Equitable pointed out, in a banner hanging on the front of  the exchange building, that the company has been around since 1859.

AXA Equitable executives got a few minutes of attention from retail and institutional investors around the world at 9:30 a.m., when they joined together to start the trading day by ringing the exchange bell.

(Related: AXA Begins Marketing AXA Equitable Shares to the Public)

AXA S.A., AXA Equitable’s Paris-based parent, has sold just 24.5% of AXA Equitable’s stock to the public, but the company has said it intends to sell more of its stake in AXA Equitable over the next few years.

AXA S.A. executives say they want to shift the company’s focus to the property-casualty insurance industry, from the life insurance and investment management industries.

A few weeks ago, AXA said it was hoping to get at least $24 per share for the AXA Equitable stake it was selling. The company announced Wednesday it was setting the actual initial public offering (IPO) stock price at just $20 per share.

The actual IPO price gives all of AXA Equitable an estimated market value of about $11 billion.

One reason for the muted investor response to the IPO may be that, under AXA, AXA Equitable has taken a low-key approach to publicity. Operating as a stand-alone company, with its own stock and its own quarterly earnings releases, could help AXA Equitable get more attention from investors and from members of the general public.

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Henry Hyde, the founder of the old Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States, was born in 1834. His high school teachers quit teaching, moved to New York to become life insurance agents, and persuaded him to leave school and join them, according to a 1901 biography available on the Google Books site.

Under Hyde’s watch, Equitable became one of the biggest, best-known companies in the United States. The company built a headquarters building at 120 Broadway, in Manhattan, that was a short walk from the current New York Stock Exchange location. The original Equitable headquarters building was the tallest building in the United States. The building had one of the first passenger elevators in the United States. Hyde had to fight to get other building committee members to agree to install the elevator, according to the 1901 biography.

After the 1870 buiding burned down, the company built a second headquarters building at the same location.

AXA, a French company, acquired control of Equitable in 1991, and changed its name to AXA Equitable in 2004.

AXA Equitable now has about $12.5 billion in annual revenue, and 12,200 employees and advisors. It has large individual retirement, group retirement and insurance protection solutions unit, as well as large investment management unit.

— Read 3 AXA Equitable IPO Answers on ThinkAdvisor.

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