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* First-quarter operating earnings/share $1.48 vs est $1.30
* Net income $956 mln vs loss of $174 mln yr ago
* Net derivate losses $630 mln vs $1.98 bln a year earlier
* Shares rise more than 2 pct after the bell
May 1 (Reuters) - MetLife Inc reported a first-quarter profit, compared with a loss a year earlier, helped by lower derivative losses linked to its credit spreads.
The largest U.S. life insurer, which is heavily exposed to persistently low interest rates in the country, has had a substantial derivatives program designed to reduce that risk.
Net derivate losses for the quarter were $630 million, much lower than the $1.98 billion it recorded a year earlier.
Shares in the company rose more than 2 percent to $39.25 after the bell.
The company's operating earnings rose across businesses and increased 12 percent to $1.6 billion, or $1.48 per share, for the quarter.
Analysts on average expected earnings of $1.30 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
First-quarter net profit was $956 million, or 87 cents per share, compared with a loss of $174 million, or 16 cents per share, a year earlier.
Net investment income rose marginally to $5.13 billion.
Low interest rates have led MetLife to focus on alternative businesses to boost profit. The company bought BBVA's Chilean pension fund for about $2 billion in February to expand its presence in emerging markets.
The company in April raised its quarterly dividend for the first time since 2007 after it received approval from the Federal Reserve to drop its status as a bank holding company.
The New York-based company's shares closed at $38.40 on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday.