AIG Did 'Great Job' Rebranding in Japan, Aflac Says (Update3)

By Andrew Frye
Bloomberg News
May 19, 2009

May 20 (Bloomberg) -- American International Group Inc. is doing a "great job" of masking its identity from Japanese insurance consumers who might otherwise steer clear of the company, Aflac Inc. Chief Executive Officer Daniel Amos said.

"There is nothing in the literature anymore that has AIG" in it, Amos told analysts at a conference today. "Before they would flaunt" the AIG brand, he said. Columbus, Georgia-based Aflac, the largest seller of supplemental insurance, has its biggest market in Japan.

AIG, which was saved by four U.S. bailouts, sells policies under the Alico brand in countries outside the U.S. including Japan. The New York-based insurer's near collapse in September prompted consumers to question whether the company had the finances to pay claims. AIG is losing market share in Japan, Amos said.

"The AIG brand has been damaged," Matthew Winter, AIG senior vice president of life insurance, told investors on a May 7 conference call.

AIG must regain the confidence of clients in order to retain employees and buy time for Chief Executive Officer Edward Liddy to carry out his reorganization and repay the government. To sidestep customer concerns in the U.S., AIG has been marketing policies using the American General Life name.

Christina Pretto, a spokeswoman for New York-based AIG, referred a request for comment to Claire Burns of Alico who said, "we are committed to a strong Alico brand in every market where we do business."

Aflac's stock has declined 25 percent since Dec. 31 on concern that investments in unprofitable European banks will deplete capital. The shares gained in 16 of the past 19 years under Amos, who took over in 1990.

Japan Sales

The insurer is targeting sales growth of up to 5 percent in Japan both this year and next, even as the country weathers its worst recession since World War II.

Amos reiterated Aflac's operating earnings forecast yesterday, and Edward Spehar, analyst with Bank of America Corp., raised the insurer's stock price estimate by 30 percent to $43.

Aflac advanced 32 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $34.40 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

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