AIG hikes rates, weighs 'inquiries' from life and retirement suitors

(Reuters) – American International Group Inc said on Wednesday it is hiking some commercial insurance rates by as much as 45%, a trend it sees persisting in 2021, as the company prepares to install Peter Zaffino as its new chief executive on March 1.

FILE PHOTO: The AIG logo is seen at its building in New York’s financial district March 19, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

The insurer also said it had received high-quality inquiries about the planned sale of its life and retirement business. It said it was still “actively working towards” an initial public offering for an initial 19.9% stake, but also was weighing the interest from private buyers. AIG’s sale comes as insurers are making deals at a frenzied pace.

The company has not said what route it would take with the remaining 80.1% stake, but has indicated it does not intend to break up the business.

AIG’s higher insurance rates reflected “considerable improvement and tighter terms and conditions,” Zaffino, who is now president, told analysts on a conference call.

Commercial business rate increases were about 15%, but the figures varied across different business lines, including a 45% increase in the insurer’s excess casualty insurance, a type of specialty coverage, Zaffino said.

Rate increases in the insurer’s financial lines business were over 25%, led by 35% increases for directors and officers liability coverage, Zaffino said.

AIG’s global energy rates rose more than 30%, the company said.

On Tuesday, AIG posted adjusted earnings that hit analysts’ targets.

AIG has struggled to right itself after a $182 billion U.S. taxpayer bailout in 2008 to save it from collapse. Since then, the company has sold off big chunks to repay the debt plus about $22.7 billion in investment returns.

Current CEO Brian Duperreault, who took the helm of AIG in 2017, handpicked Zaffino to work alongside him in an effort to turn the company around.

A key focus was transforming AIG’s general insurance business where Duperreault and Zaffino set about overhauling AIG’s underwriting culture after years spent chasing revenue growth without appropriately weighing risks.

In May 2019, AIG’s general insurance business posted its first underwriting profit since the global financial crisis, a key goal.

AIG announced the planned separation of its life and retirement business in October and expects the transaction to happen over the course of 2021.

The life and retirement business accounted for 34% of AIG’s $49 billion in 2019 adjusted revenue, compared with 64% for its general insurance business, AIG has said.

The separation of AIG’s life insurance business echoes a move pushed by billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn, who targeted the insurer in 2015 with a breakup plan that was also supported by former hedge fund manager John Paulson.

Icahn demanded that AIG spin off its life insurance unit and now former mortgage insurance business, a move that he said would return more cash to shareholders.

Icahn sold his AIG stake in 2018.

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