(Adds CEO comments on M&A)
PARIS, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Investment bank Natixis said on Tuesday its third-quarter net income had increased by 29 percent, as a strong rise in asset management and insurance sales helped offset a weaker environment for trading.
France's fourth-biggest listed bank is betting on insurance and asset management in a search for higher returns at a time of tougher post-crisis rules on risk-taking and plans to present a new strategy at an investor day on Nov.20.
Natixis, majority owned by retail banking group BPCE, said net income rose to 383 million euros ($443 million). Analysts had expected a 15 percent increase in profit to 342 million euros, according to a Reuters poll.
The bank has invested around 1.5 billion euros ($1.74 billion) since 2014 in asset management, merger and acquisitions boutiques, as well as in payment solutions.
Natixis declined to comment on rumours that it had been in talks with French insurer AXA over a tie-up, but said that asset management remained a strategic asset for the bank.
"We study on a regular basis and possibly engage in discussions with a number of players when there are deals that arise and have a strategic interest," Chief Executive Laurent Mignon said.
Revenue from its investment solutions unit, which includes asset management, insurance and private banking, rose by 17 percent to 940 million euros and accounted for 40 percent of overall revenue.
Natixis expects its insurance business to post double-digit revenue growth in the years to come, as it seeks to benefit from cross-selling with its parent cooperative bank BPCE that wants to become the second-largest bancassurer in France by 2020.
Natixis' corporate and investment bank was unable to avoid the impact of quieter markets in the third quarter. However, it outperformed its rivals, BNP Paribas and Societe Generale, which reported drops of more than a quarter in fixed income, currencies and commodities revenues from a year ago.
Revenue from fixed income trading fell more than 10 percent over the quarter to 259 million euros at Natixis. Equities trading revenue fell 4 percent.
Overall, revenues rose 15 percent over the period to 2.21 billion euros, Natixis added.
"These achievements provide a sound basis to begin executing on our new strategic plan which will be unveiled on November 20," the bank said in a statement. ($1 = 0.8645 euros) (Reporting by Maya Nikolaeva and Matthieu Protard; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and David Evans)