Icahn, Paulson add transparency, AIG president says

LONDON (Reuters) - Activist investors Carl Icahn and John Paulson are making American International Group (AIG) AIG.N more transparent through their representation on its board, the U.S. insurer's president and chief executive Peter Hancock said on Wednesday.

AIG CEO Peter Hancock speaks during the White House summit on cybersecurity and consumer protection in Palo Alto, California February 13, 2015. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Hedge fund manager Paulson and Samuel Merksamer, a managing director at Icahn Capital, joined the AIG board last month after a campaign last year by Icahn, the U.S. insurer’s fourth largest investor, for AIG to break itself into three parts.

AIG rejected Icahn’s proposal and outlined its own strategy in January, including spinning off its mortgage insurance unit and selling its broker-dealer network.

“Inclusion of the activists has forced us to be a little bit more transparent,” Hancock said at a briefing in London, adding that after seeing the company from the inside, the investors were gaining a better understanding of the difficulties of simplifying the company.

“There is a lot of common ground,” Hancock told Reuters on the sidelines of the briefing.

Hancock said part of the simplification would include cutting motor insurance business in some of the countries in which it operates, following a decision to pull out of motor insurance in China.

AIG’s near-collapse in 2008 and its $182 billion bail-out by the U.S. government led to its inclusion in the Federal Reserve’s list of “systemically important financial institutions” (SIFIs).

Icahn has argued a split would help AIG rid itself of the regulatory burden of being a SIFI, which requires higher capital cushions.

AIG also said in January it planned to cut $1.6 billion of costs and return at least $25 billion to shareholders over the next two years.

“The strategy is very much on track,” Hancock said.

AIG’s European headquarters are in London, and the firm may switch that head office status if Britain votes to leave the European Union in a referendum next week, Hancock said.

“If a Brexit should occur, I suspect we will need a hub within the EU and there are some excellent choices, some of which we have examined,” he told the briefing, declining to give further details.

AIG’s restructuring also involves job cuts. Around 100 jobs were recently cut in London, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Reporting by Carolyn Cohn; Editing by Mark Potter