SBJ board recommends shareholders accept insurer bid.

AXA has made an offer to purchase 100% of the share capital of SBJ Group.

The offer, which has been unanimously recommended by the SBJ board, has been put to SBJ shareholders. The price was not disclosed.

AXA said the acquisition, if successful, would complement and enhance its UK advisory and broking capability.

SBJ is the UK’s 15th largest broker and reported revenues in 2006 of £78.1m. It has four principal businesses, including SBJ UK, a major broker focused on the mid-corporate market, and a Lloyd’s broker. It also has an employee benefits consultancy and a claims services division.

AXA said the addition of SBJ UK would expand its SME broking offering, currently represented by Venture Preference, and enable it to offer more to larger corporate clients.

The businesses would continue to operate independently of AXA’s insurance company interests.

An AXA spokesman said the intention was that SBJ would initially sit alongside the other AXA businesses.

In the longer term integration was not ruled out.

“Over time we will look at how to take it forward,” the spokesman said.

Nicolas Moreau, AXA UK group chief executive, said: “This signals an exciting opportunity offering real benefits for both AXA UK and SBJ. I am confident that SBJ’s shareholders will respond positively to our offer.”

George Boden, chief executive of SBJ, said: “SBJ has grown substantially in both business and staff over the past five years and we foresee a period of further sustained growth as part of AXA which will provide firm support for our business plans.”

Top 50 brokers: Who's left?

Heath Lambert Rank: 13
2006 Brokerage: £107.7m
Linked with AXA and RSA.

Miller Rank:18
Brokerage: £64.4m
Largest privately - owned insurance and reinsurance broker in the UK.

Cooper Gay Rank: 20
Brokerage: £58.7m
SC Insurance and Risk Services took a 14% stake in May.

Kwik-Fit Rank: 21
Brokerage: £58.3m
The group was sold for £800m to French private equity firm PAI in June 2005.
Hyperion (Howden) Rank: 27
Brokerage: £33.4m
Group consists of underwriters Dual and CFC, and a specialist broker.

RK Harrison Rank: 28
Brokerage: £32.4m
Acquired trade credit broker IRC.

Besso Holdings Rank: 29
Brokerage: £30.2m
In 1995 Wachovia bank took a 40% stake.

Erinaceous Rank: 30
Brokerage: £29m
The insurance division has been linked with Towergate and Zurich.

First City Rank: 38
Brokerage: £21m
In November, First City received a £20m offer from JLT, but talks stalled.