March 18 (Reuters) - French insurer AXA on Monday said it put 40 million shares of AXA Equitable Holdings on sale through a secondary offering as part of its plan to gradually divest from its U.S. life insurance business.
If the secondary offering is successful, AXA will sell 30 million additional shares to AXA Equitable in a share buyback transaction, AXA said in a statement.
Through the two operations, AXA intends to reduce its stake in AXA Equitable to below 50 percent, the French company said. AXA currently controls about 60 percent of the U.S.-based life insurance company.
The sale of a majority stake in AXA Equitable is part of a plan by AXA to raise cash to pay for its $15 billion acquisition of Bermuda-based rival XL last year.
AXA hired U.S. banks JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup as underwriters for the secondary offering. The insurer said it granted the underwriters an option to buy as many as 6 million additional shares. (Reporting by Inti Landauro; Editing by Leslie Adler)