October 30, 2019 / 8:26 PM / 17 days ago

MetLife profit falls short on U.S., Latam weakness

(Reuters) - U.S. insurer MetLife Inc (MET.N) fell short of Wall Street estimates for quarterly profit on Wednesday, hit by a fall in adjusted earnings in its U.S. and Latin American businesses.

FILE PHOTO: A MetLife Inc building is shown in Irvine, California, U.S., January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Adjusted earnings for MetLife’s U.S. business fell 11% to $707 million from the a year earlier. The unit was also pressured by a 16% decline in the retirement business on lower investment margins and less favorable underwriting. Adjusted earnings fell 9% in Latin America.

However, adjusted earnings rose 31% in Asia. The insurer has been working on growing its Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Asia businesses to counter intense competition from online marketplaces in the United States.

MetLife held $15.6 billion in reserves as of Sept. 30 for long-term care policies that are still active, the company said.

The company is among a number of life insurers that typically conduct reviews every third quarter of assumptions they made when writing policies many years ago.

As interest rates decline, some life insurers are having to re-think assumptions they made long ago about what they thought rates would be.

Some one-time items led analysts to take different approaches to the results. Some excluded a charge related to the rates review and the effect of a dramatic gain in the insurer’s derivative portfolio to conclude that MetLife had beaten their expectations.

MetLife’s core earnings per share of $1.54 was above Barclays expectations of $1.40, boosted in part by higher variable investment income, wrote analyst Jay Gelb in a research note on Wednesday.

Morgan Stanley analyst Nigel Daily said MetLife’s operating earnings per share were $1.44, above the brokerage’s estimate of $1.40.

Net income available to MetLife common shareholders jumped to $2.15 billion from $880 million a year earlier.

The company reported net derivative gains of $1.25 billion for the three months ended Sept 30, compared with a loss of $378 million a year earlier.

MetLife holds a book of derivatives to hedge against the risk market swings. Such gains do not indicate actual performance of the company, but reflect the effect of accounting rules, an issue that has occurred in some previous quarters.

On a per share basis, the company earned $2.30 compared to 88 cents in the same period a year earlier.

Excluding total notable items, such as the impact of an annual review of the company’s actuarial assumptions and costs for an expense initiative, the company earned $1.27 per share.

Analysts on average had expected a profit of $1.40 per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Reporting by C Nivedita in Bengaluru and Suzanne Barlyn in New York; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Shailesh Kuber

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