UK – The roughly £300m (€438m) Milk Pension Fund has fired Merrill Lynch Investment Managers from a £136m global fixed income mandate – awarding the brief to AXA Investment Managers instead.

The move saw a substantial enlargement of AXA’s existing £33m fixed income mandate with the scheme – pushing it up to £179m.

According to scheme secretary Richard Thornton, the switch was part of a move from passive to active management. He declined to comment on reasons for dropping MLIM.

Aon Consulting were advisers in the “small” tendering process. It also advised the scheme in the recent award of a £280m custody mandate to State Street, where it replaced the Bank of New York.

In other news, AXA Investment Managers’ UK fixed income team announced they have won more than £1.5bn in new business from the UK pensions market. The team manages £32bn in the UK.

Apart from the Milk pension scheme brief, big mandate wins for 2005 included a £215m mandate from the Xerox Pension Scheme, a £104m mandate from the Vivendi Universal Pension Scheme, and a £232m corporate bond mandate from an unnamed UK pension scheme.

“2005 was a tremendous year for AXA IM’s fixed income team,” said UK institutional head Alastair Cuming.

“The challenge in 2006 is to build on this success, and use our team’s skill and expertise to meet the growing demands of pension schemes.”