French insurer Axa has bought UK fund manager Framlington for $342.5 million after a lengthy bidding war.

US financial services firm Comerica is selling its 49% interest in the London-based company, while banking giant HSBC is giving up its 51% share.

Formed in 1969, Framlington is said to hold over GBP4.5 billion of assets under management. It has also reportedly taken a 10% share of sales in the UK retail fund market last year. Axa said the addition of the fund management firm will give it highly regarded UK equity fund management capacity.

Comerica, which acquired its stake in Framlington in October 1996, said the sale is consistent with its enhanced focus on domestic asset management.

The sale, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2005, is yet to receive approval from UK regulatory agency, the Financial Services Authority.