MetLife Inc. Earnings Call Nuggets: U.S. Earnings, Accidental and Health Business

On Friday, MetLife Inc (NYSE:MET) reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call. Here’s what executives shared with analysts and investors.

U.S. Earnings

Thomas Gallagher – Credit Suisse: Just first had a sort of philosophical question on capital and then a specific earnings question. I guess the philosophical question is how you’re approaching the view required capital right now? I mean, it’s clearly in a bit of flux both for you all and the industry depending on different ways you might measure versus history, so just curious, how you would approach that, in particular how are you looking at that as part of you strategic review? Then just a question on the earnings side, I guess the U.S. earnings came in well above plan. How should we think about that as it relates to a run rate? It looks like to me it was a mix of strong investment spreads and good underwriting results. What’s your anticipation as to whether or not that’s going to be sustained for the balance of the year?

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Steven A. Kandarian – Chairman, President and CEO: As to capital, let me just start by saying that our philosophy about returning excess capital to shareholders remains intact. Having said that, we’ve lived most of our existence at MetLife under state regulatory regimes which have one set of rules for us. We now as you know as a bank holding company are regulated additionally by the Fed and there are different rules as a bank holding company which we’ve talked about with respect the Fed stress test we just went through. So that’s why my remarks we’re cautious in the sense of measuring all those trying to take in account this changing regulatory landscape that we currently face. We are de-banking. There is still the issue of whether MetLife and other insurers, large insurers may be designated by FSOC as a non-bank SIFI. So, all those factors are taken into consideration as we think about when and how to return capital to shareholders and as that landscape becomes clear to us and as we get through the bank, de-banking process, then we’ll have more say about that. So those things are still a moving target. To-date no one has been designated yet in non-bank SIFI, so we have to wait and see more on that and if you are designated as such the rules are at this point, not promulgated so it’s a difficult environment to operate from the point of view providing clarity and certainty to our shareholders this very moment about our capital plans. As to U.S. earning I’d simply say we had a very good Q1. Eric went through some details in it in terms of what drove those good earnings. As mentioned, we’re not changing our guidance. Obviously, the strong first quarter puts upward pressure within the range we provided to you Investor Day and beyond that I would simply say that we are heartened by the first quarter, but it is uncertain environment out there in the world today and we’re remaining with the current guidance. Eric, you want to add anything to that?

Eric T. Steigerwalt – EVP and Interim CFO: Sure Steve. Let me just walk through very briefly here. As we said, we reported $1.37 per share normalizing to $1.39. Just thinking about a few things that we don’t normalize as we consider them part of our business frankly, we did have about $0.04 of initial market impact that helped earnings in the Americas in first quarter. We talked about the fact that our variable investment income was at the higher end of our range, our ranges is $150 million to $250 million and we came in at $239 million. So you can think about that. In addition, on a normalized basis we reported P&C earnings of $84 million and as I mentioned, you know, we expect higher cats in the second quarter and third quarter and as a matter of fact versus last year we actually added another $20 million to our cat provision for the second quarter. So I think P&C earnings will come down a little bit in the second quarter, and finally we had very good recurring income. We expect that to for the most degree to continue going forward, but it was a very good quarter. So when I say recurring income investment income, I mean non-variable. So you can think about maybe those four categories with respect to adjusting off of our normalized $1.39 Tom.

Accidental and Health Business

Ryan Krueger – Dowling and Partners: Steve, you have made it pretty clear that exporting Alico’s accident and health capabilities globally is a major strategic priority for Met. I was curious if that includes the desire also to place more of an emphasis on A&H in the U.S., where I think you are a pretty small player, but the competitive environment still seems pretty favorable and the market penetration remains pretty low there?

Steven A. Kandarian – Chairman, President and CEO: I think you picked it, that is our intention. The accident and health business, that really started in Japan, you know some 20 or 30 years ago, has – Alico did a very good job of rolling that out around the world and that continues today. Our accident and health sales are up, for instance in Latin America are up very nicely; and that’s through a number of different channels. So our presence in accident and health in the U.S. is very modest, and we expect that we will be developing products and rolling that out through a number of channels, really starting this year, but obviously continuing over the next couple of years to build some momentum.

Ryan Krueger – Dowling and Partners: M&A opportunities in the U.S. and abroad seemed to have heated up a little bit lately. How are you thinking about M&A at this point, I guess, in terms of both geography and product mix and along those same lines, when you look at potential M&A accretion versus share repurchase, are you now factoring in the factor that you are likely to be able to deploy a greater amount of capital into M&A at this point versus buyback?

Eric T. Steigerwalt – EVP and Interim CFO: Our view on M&A really hasn’t changed, we have talked about a number of times in the past. So we look at deals, we will compare it to a share buyback program as well, and we have to see accretion soon after a deal closes, it is something that they want depends upon the deal and the importance of the transaction to us, but you can be assured that we remained disciplined in these sort of M&A transactions that we do. I have no comment today about any specific M&A deals, obviously we don’t talk about that until there is certainty but we are still looking at properties not just in the United Sates but globally that may make sense in terms of being a good fit from our point of view strategically. That’s kind of the key message.