Attention is focused whether AXA General Insurance, French insurer AXA’s Korean unit, will be able to be sold as a strong candidate for the insurer pulled out of the deal.

The first round of bidding for AXA General Insurance took place on September, in which Kyobo Life Insurance was the sole bidder, industry sources said on Monday (September 21). Shinhan Financial Group, which was considered the strong candidate for the insurer, decided not to join the preliminary bid.

The seller has tried to negotiate with potential buyers individually even before the preliminary bid, but failed to receive positive response from potential buyers.

Market watchers expect AXA’s headquarters to agonize over whether it will proceed with the sale process as it will have to change the process to a private deal. AXA Group hasn’t reportedly decided further procedures in the sale deal.

Market watchers carefully raise the possibility that AXA Group may withdraw its plan to sell its Korean unit. They are also not sure whether Kyobo Life Insurance, the sole bidder for the insurer, is a genuine potential buyer.

Altering the sale process may act as an obstacle for AXA Group to maintain its bargaining power. More insurance companies are expected to be put up for sale ahead of the introduction of IFRS 17 and the buyer’s market is highly likely to be continued.

“The deal is losing traction as the strong potential buyer walked away from the deal,” said an industry source. “The seller is likely to agonize over whether it will proceed with its sale process or when would be the right time for the process.”

AXA General Insurance was set up by Korea Direct in 2000 and taken over by Kyobo Life Insurance in the following year, before the French insurer purchased a 74.7% stake in 2007. AXA bought the remaining shares in 2009 and the company has since positioned itself as an online insurance platform specializing in auto insurance products. (Reporting by Ar-rum Rho)