* MetLife Q1 oper EPS $1.33 vs Wall Street’s $1.26
* Prudential Q1 oper EPS $1.69, vs analysts’ $1.48
* Japanese impact relatively small (Adds details from financial results)
NEW YORK, May 4 (Reuters) - The two largest U.S. life insurers reported stronger profits on Wednesday, as rising investment income and record annuity sales offset the still-developing impact from the Japanese earthquake.
Both MetLife Inc (MET.N) and Prudential Financial Inc (PRU.N) beat analysts’ expectations handily. MetLife’s annuity sales rose 34 percent from a year earlier, while Prudential’s net annuity sales were also about one-third higher.
International operations also stood out for both businesses, as MetLife continued to integrate the international insurer Alico and Prudential started to recognize results from Star and Edison. All of those businesses were recently acquired from insurer AIG (AIG.N).
MetLife reported a net profit of $830 million, or 78 cents per share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $805 million, or 97 cents per share. Even though net profit rose, earnings per share fell due to a sharp rise in shares outstanding.
Excluding investment gains and losses, operating earnings of $1.33 beat the $1.26 per share expected, on average, by analysts, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Prudential reported a net profit of $589 million, or $1.20 per share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $536 million, or $1.15 per share. Operating earnings of $1.69 per share beat Wall Street’s estimate of $1.48.
MetLife and Prudential were considered two of the most exposed U.S. insurers to the March 11 Japan disaster, but they said any impact has been relatively small.
MetLife forecast second-quarter costs related to the quake of $45 million to $65 million, while Prudential took a $19 million charge in the first quarter and anticipated another of $55 million in the second quarter.
That pales in both cases to the charges reported by similarly large property and casualty insurers, which have run into the hundreds of millions of dollars or more. (Reporting by Ben Berkowitz; Editing by Andre Grenon and Steve Orlofsky)