MetLife Earnings Call Insights: International Growth Outlook and Provida

MetLife Inc (NYSE:MET) recently reported its fourth quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

International Growth Outlook

Jeffrey Schuman – KBW: I was wondering if you could give a little bit more color about the international growth outlook, if we look at the fourth quarter or 2012 as a whole. I think Latin America maybe it was pretty modest relative to your normalized expectations and yet I think you’ve forecasted pretty big acceleration, in 2013. I wonder if you can remind us why that is and I guess you did touch on the Asia a little bit, but even before the recent devaluation your outlook there was I think for pretty even close to decelerate price significantly relative to what we have seen recently, and so maybe you can remind us kind of what the factors are there please?

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William J. Wheeler – President, the Americas: I’ll talk about Latin America. Revenue growth on a constant currency basis was about 4% we are forecasting I guess on a constant currency basis 10% for next year. We had very good sales volumes. Our sales volumes in Latin America were up 26% year-over-year what held back the overall PFO growth rate was there is a couple of group cases that we have lost, one in Mexico, one in Chile that are large. They weren’t terribly profitable and so that’s affected our top line growth. Now, I think we’ve said this before on other calls, especially in the third quarter, the comparison, especially the one in Mexico, we lost at the beginning of this year, so that comparison will go away next year. Latin America, except for noise like these group cases, is I think more like a 10% grower.

John C.R. Hele – EVP and CFO: With regard Asia – this is John – our bank channel was down which has a large premium, there’s a joint single premium product, so it’s quite an impact when you look at the premiums, but we’re seeing growth in the independent agency channels and other areas across Asia. So we’re pleased that we are remaining disciplined as we grow all of our channels.

Provida

Mark Finkelstein – Evercore Partners: Just a couple of questions on Provida; should we assume that the 70% of GAAP earnings which I think you characterized as $200 million, would you expect that to be fully dividend as the holding company?

John C.R. Hele – EVP and CFO: We expect that to be good distribution. It may go to the international holding companies, because it’s in the international operations. But we expect that to be available.

Mark Finkelstein – Evercore Partners: Then just a few quick questions; I think you characterized returns on this as at least equal to your weighted average cost of capital. How should we think about the IRRs on this trade? I would assume it would be above your weighted average cost of capital. Should we look at this giving growth et cetera as low-teens, mid-teens, high-teens? How did you – what’s the IRR that you are projecting on this?

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Steven A. Kandarian – Chairman, President and CEO: We are looking at a sort of mid-teen return and we think given – that’s a good return given the Chilean economy and environment, it’s one of the best places to be investing in. If you call it an emerging market, it’s a very stable government and economy, so we’re very pleased with that type of return.

Mark Finkelstein – Evercore Partners: Then maybe just – I guess just going back to the comment about that Steve made on buybacks and an impact going out to 2016 if there were zero buybacks. Obviously, the difference between zero and $8 billion is a very wide range and I think it’s helpful to frame out kind of what I would hope to be kind of a downside scenario, but is that any feel for how we should be thinking about or moderating capital deployment expectations out to 2016, I mean, I assume the answer is zero, but is there any feeling for maybe what management is kind of thinking about is a reasonable range?

Steven A. Kandarian – Chairman, President and CEO: I can’t give you a lot of guidance at this very moment. As things unfold here in the coming months, I think we’ll be able to provide more clarity, but we are still doing our analysis, we’re still trying to understand the regulatory environment and what the capital rules maybe going forward for us. Unfortunately I can’t give you more than that.

Mark Finkelstein – Evercore Partners: Then just one final question if I may. With the Provida acquisition and the free cash flow generated from that, is there any change in your view on the deleveraging that you are expecting as part of your capital model looking out to ’13?

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John C.R. Hele – EVP and CFO: No, not really. I mean, Provida will close sometimes later on this year and it’s uncertain when that might close so it’s hard to predict exactly the cash and earnings impact that we would have in 2013.

A Closer Look: MetLife Earnings Cheat Sheet>>