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Sun Life name to vanish as Axa group rebrands

SUN LIFE, one of the oldest names in the UK life and pensions industry, is to vanish as part of the global rebranding of member companies in the Axa group, with owns 72 per cent of the British assurer.

The company would then effectively become the UK quoted arm of Axa, the giant France-based insurance group headed by Claude Bebear.

The first step - set to take place within the next few weeks - will be to ditch the Provincial part of the name and shorten it to Sun Life. However, Mark Wood, the chief executive, says the group has already decided that the Sun Life name - a household name since the company's foundation in 1810 - will also be ditched at an early opportunity.

"We are constantly being confused with Sun Life of Canada with whom we have no connection, and the SunAlliance part of Royal & SunAlliance," said Mr Wood.

Sun Life, which already operates to all intents and purposes as the UK arm of the Axa group ,would lose its separate identity, although Mr Bebear is keen to keep the UK quote.

Axa inherited the stake in Sun Life and Provincial when it merged with UAP, the privatised French insurance group, nearly two years ago.

Mr Bebear, a passionate believer in the virtues of European Monetary Union, believes the Continent will move very swiftly after January 1999 to a single stock market for the whole of Europe, which would ultimately include Britain .

The group will be offering euro-denominated insurance policies to corporate customers in this country from later this year.

Sun Life was floated in May 1996 - less than a year after UAP took full control by buying out the South African businessman, Donald Gordon, who jointly owned the company. Following the UAP merger, AXA injected its existing UK life business, Equity & Law.

Mr Bebear is keen to expand Axa further in the UK, but has he so far failed to find a suitable acquisitions target. There has been speculation that Norwich Union might be on Axa's shopping list.