The first round of bidding for AXA is expected to be held on September 18, with Samjong KPMG working with the French insurer on the sale, industry sources said.

Potential bidders include domestic financial services conglomerates and private equity firms. But the business’ heavy focus on auto insurance could limit interest from some investors, industry watchers said.

Founded as Korea Direct in 2000, the non-life insurance company was acquired by Kyobo Life Insurance in 2001, before being sold to the French insurer in 2007. The company has since positioned itself as an online insurance platform specializing in auto insurance products, which account for 89% of the insurer’s total premium income in 2019.

Shinhan Financial Group is one of the potential bidders for AXA. Last year the South Korean financial services conglomerate expressed interest in Hana Insurance – formerly known as The-K Non-Life Insurance – although it withdrew at the last minute. Hana Insurance is said to have a similar business profile to AXA.

Other potential bidders include Kakao Pay, the payment arm of the South Korean chat app giant Kakao. It has been seeking to expand its operations to include insurance services and is reportedly open to several options including the acquisition of an existing insurer.

The value of AXA is roughly estimated at 178 billion won ($149.7 million), calculated by multiplying its net assets of 235.1 billion won at the end of 2019 by the price-to-book ratio of 0.75 times from the Hana Insurance deal in 2019. (Reporting by Ar-rum Rho)