French insurer AXA is in the early stages of selling its 15 percent stake in China's Taikang Life Insurance Company, in a deal that could fetch as much as $1 billion, sources said on Thursday.

Morgan Stanley is advising AXA on the sale of the stake, sources said, with the auction expected to attract several large corporate and private equity suitors. One source with direct knowledge of the matter said the stake is worth between $800 million and $1 billion.

(Reporting by Michael Flaherty and George Chen; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)