MetLife sees growth potential in Brazil

BUENOS AIRES Tue May 4, 2010 1:23pm EDT

Oscar Schmidt, executive vice president of Metlife Latin America Region, answers a question during an interview as part of the Reuters Latin American Investment summit in Buenos Aires May 3, 2010. REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian

Oscar Schmidt, executive vice president of Metlife Latin America Region, answers a question during an interview as part of the Reuters Latin American Investment summit in Buenos Aires May 3, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Enrique Marcarian

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Life insurer MetLife Inc (MET.N) will consider further acquisitions as it seeks to strengthen its global presence, possibly in the growing Brazilian market, Executive Vice President for Latin America Oscar Schmidt said on Tuesday.

MetLife, the biggest U.S. life insurance company, recently bought American International Group Inc's (AIG.N) American Life Insurance Co (Alico) unit for $15.5 billion, giving it footholds in about 60 nations, including a stronger presence in Latin America.

"We're permanently on the lookout," Schmidt told the Reuters Latin American Investment Summit in Buenos Aires. "We have a system of search and analysis when we're interested in something and Brazil definitely interests us."

Mexico is the company's biggest market in Latin America, followed by Brazil, where the appetite for life insurance is growing faster than in neighboring emerging market countries, Schmidt said, adding that expansion was also possible in Colombia.

"(Brazil) is a strategic market for us. We have very high rates of growth in Brazil," Schmidt said.

MetLife reported last week a six-fold increase in quarterly operating earnings, beating Wall Street expectations on strong investment income as credit markets continued to thaw.

Schmidt said the healthy results reflected the company's solid risk management strategy and said the purchase of Alico, which is due to complete on November 1, was "a reward for our prudence."

"The crisis has had an impact on everyone in the sector, but it's had less of an impact on us," he said. "If we hadn't maintained a solid position throughout the crisis, we wouldn't have been able to buy Alico."

The company sees continued revenue and earnings growth during the rest of 2010, but Schmidt sounded a note of caution over the global economic recovery.

"We think that the crisis is starting to ebb, but we can't say it's finished ... we're coming out of it, but we can't rule out the possibility of relapses," he said.

MetLife has some 70 million customers and aims to increase that number to 100 million by 2013. The Alico takeover will sharply increase its market share in Japan, the Middle East and Europe.

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