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Nov 1, 2018

MetLife ramps up stock buybacks after profit beat

MetLife

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MetLife Inc. said it plans to buy back as much as US$2 billion in shares after beating analysts’ estimates for the third straight quarter, showing Chief Executive Officer Steven Kandarian’s push to be more consistent is paying off.

  • The U.S. and Latin American businesses fueled gains, while private-equity returns boosted investments. Adjusted profit came in at US$1.38 a share, beating the US$1.26 estimate from 17 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Key Insights

  • Kandarian spun off large U.S. retail business Brighthouse Financial Inc. last year to lessen fluctuations in the firm’s results. That helped net income swing to a profit of US$880 million from a loss of US$97 million a year earlier.
  • The New York-based insurer didn’t get caught up in the long-term care storm this time around. MetLife reviewed its books and didn’t need to tweak reserves, unlike peers Prudential Financial Inc. and Unum Group, which booked charges this year.
  • Pension-risk transfers, which let employers offload obligations to insurers, have been a growing market for the industry, but were less lucrative in the third quarter. MetLife saw smaller-sized pension-risk-transfer transactions in the period.

Market Reaction

  • MetLife shares rose 1.8 per cent in New York trading Thursday. The stock had fallen more than 17 per cent this year before the results were announced.

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  • The new buyback follows MetLife’s repurchase of US$1 billion under an authorization program it announced in May, continuing the CEO’s push to return more to shareholders.