AXA MIDI TAKES AIM AT OTHER US TARGETS

AXA MIDI TAKES AIM AT OTHER US TARGETS

Since his unfriendly bid to buy Farmers Insurance Group in Los Angeles, Calif., failed last week, Claude Bebear, the French insurance chief, is considering offers by at least a half dozen other United States' insurers, he said Friday.

"We were trying to buy an American insurance company and we will continue to try," said Mr. Bebear, chief executive officer of Axa Midi Assurances, the third largest insurance group in France, which is based in Paris."The U.S. market is 40 percent of the world market. If you want to be an international company you have to be involved in the United States."

He declined to name any companies, but said he would only consider a company with an estimated value of about $1 billion.

"We are not in a hurry," Mr. Bebear said. "We have time. It could take some years and I don't really mind."

Axa had planned to pay $4.5 billion for Farmers from Sir James Goldsmith, the Anglo-British financier, if his $21 billion takeover bid for Farmers' parent, B.A.T. Industries PLC was successful.

Sir James ended his nine-month pursuit of the British conglomerate on April 23, stymied by state regulatory opposition to the takeover and by the success of B.A.T.'s restructuring.

The experience with Farmers taught him a surprising lesson about state regulation, he said.

"We learned a lot of things about the control and mentality of different states," he said.

"In California, they are very, very consumer-minded. In Idaho, it's more a problem of employment and their concern is more if we will keep people or let them go. You discover you have people living in the same country who are not the same."