French insurer AXA is reported to be in talks with Siena, Italy-based Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena in a bid to expand its footprint in the Italian life insurance market. According to Reuters, the French insurer has made an E1.1 billion offer for a 50% stake in the life insurance business of Monte dei Paschi.

According to MarketWatch, while the involved parties have declined to comment, Monte dei Paschi has revealed in a separate statement that its MPS Vita and Montepaschi Assicurazioni Danni insurance units could be involved in a planned joint venture.

The online publication commented that AXA’s bid for a stake in Monte dei Paschi’s life insurance arm had beaten the offer of just over E1 billion made by Dutch insurer Aegon. MarketWatch added that these offers were much higher than the E700 million to E800 million that industry analysts had expected.

Forbes has also cited Italian daily newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore as reporting that AXA could buy a 2% stake in Monte dei Paschi itself, to reinforce a possible bancassurance alliance. The newspaper valued the transaction at E230 million, but did not provide a source.

According to MarketWatch, AXA’s current minor presence in Italy, through its AXA Assicurazioni unit, generates the majority of its revenue from property and casualty insurance, with life insurance making up a relatively small portion.

The news provider reported an industry analyst as commenting: It’s a good move for AXA and it proves finally that it does have proper ambitions in the Italian market.