* 3rd-qtr net profit $942 mln vs net $984 mln loss year earlier
* 3rd-qtr operating earnings $1.34/shr vs est $1.36
* Claims and benefits paid rise 3.5 pct
* Shares fall 3 pct in extended trading
Oct 30 (Reuters) - MetLife Inc reported a third-quarter profit that narrowly missed analysts' estimates as the largest U.S. life insurer paid more in claims and benefits to policyholders, sending its shares down about 3 percent after the bell.
The insurer reported a net profit of $942 million, or 84 cents per share, for the quarter ended Sept. 30.
It had posted a loss of $984 million, or 92 cents per share, a year earlier as it took a goodwill impairment charge of $1.6 billion on its U.S. retail annuity business.
Total claims and benefits paid rose 3.5 percent to $9.31 billion. Premium revenue, however, remained flat at $9.09 billion.
On an operating basis, the insurer earned $1.34 per share. Analysts had expected earnings of $1.36 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Operating earnings were boosted by strong results across its retail business in the Americas division. Retail earnings rose 34 percent to $659 million due to better expense management.
MetLife's net derivative losses narrowed to $476 million for the third quarter, from $543 million, a year earlier.
The company has long had a substantial derivatives program to smooth out the risk of low interest rates that have been squeezing the interest incomes of insurers.
Net investment income remained flat at $5.04 billion, as historically low interest rates continued to persist.
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 earlier this year to expand its presence in emerging markets.
MetLife's shares closed at $49 on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday.