MetLife Swings To 1Q Loss On Investment Woes

Kathy Shwiff
Dow Jones Newswires
April 30, 2009


MetLife Inc.'s (MET), the nation's largest life insurer, swung to a first-quarter loss on woes in its investment portfolio and rising costs despite falling premium revenue.

Shares fell 3.9% to $28.60 as results fell well short of analysts' expectations.

Nonetheless, Chief Executive C. Robert Henrikson said, "We once again demonstrated the benefit of our diverse mix of businesses, which continued to perform well despite the impact that lower investment income and unfavorable equity markets have had on earnings.

Life insurers have been reporting slumping results the last six months as the tanking stock market and other investment woes walloped results. MetLife's investment income fell 24%.

The company reported a net loss of $548 million, or 71 cents a share, compared with year-earlier net income of $660 million, or 84 cents a share. Operating earnings, which exclude net realized capital gains and losses, tumbled to 20 cents a share from $1.46.

Revenue dropped 12% to $10.22 billion and premiums slid 2.7% to $6.12 billion.

Analysts' estimates were for per-share earnings of 34 cents on revenue of $11.93 billion, according to a poll by Thomson Reuters.

The company reported premium increases in various segments while U.S. annuity deposits more than doubled to $7.4 billion because of growth in fixed annuity deposits. Variable annuities have been a trouble spot for life insurers as they call for minimum returns, and the stock market's slump has called into questions the companies' ability to pay if investments don't rebound.

Earnings in MetLife's institutional business - which includes group life, retirement and savings products - fell 64%. The individual business, which includes life insurance and annuities marketed through agents, swung to a loss while profit in the company's smaller auto- and homeowners-insurance business fell 22%.

MetLife, which has one of the strongest balance sheets in the industry, earlier this month said it has successfully raised its own capital and won't be applying for government funds under the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

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