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Axa’s De Castries to retire early, Buberl to take CEO post

(Bloomberg) -- Axa SA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Henri de Castries is leaving earlier than expected, handing over the post of CEO to Thomas Buberl as France’s largest insurer splits its top jobs.

De Castries, 61, will retire at the start of September, ending 16 years at the helm of Axa, the Paris-based insurer said in a statement on Monday. Denis Duverne, currently deputy CEO, will be chairman. De Castries’s mandate was scheduled to last until 2018.

Axa has grown into one of the world’s largest insurance companies under de Castries, building on its operations in France to the U.S. and Japan to expand in emerging markets such as China, Nigeria and Colombia. Axa’s net income rose 12% to 5.62 billion euros ($6.3 billion) in 2015 and the company said it met its five-year financial goals and will present a new strategic plan in June.

Axa has declined about 15% in Paris trading this year, the fourth-worst performance on the 36-member Stoxx Europe 600 Insurance Index. The stock was little changed at 21.54 euros as of 9:37 a.m.

De Castries is the front-runner to succeed Douglas Flint as chairman of HSBC Holdings Plc, The Sunday Times reported, without saying where it got the information. HSBC appointed De Castries as a non-executive director in November. The bank plans to nominate a successor next year for Flint.

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