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Analyst Blog

Earlier this week, MetLife Inc. (MET - Analyst Report) priced its long-term debentures worth $1.0 billion that are scheduled for remarketing and settlement next week.

Previously, these senior debentures were issued in Nov 2010, and comprised 40 million common equity shares of the company issued in connection with the financing of the acquisition of American Life Insurance Co. (ALICO) and Delaware American Life Insurance Co.

Presently, these debentures are issued at an interest rate of 4.368% and are dated to mature on Sep 15, 2023. The company expects to distribute the proceeds from the debenture sale to the common equity holders against the prior stock purchase contracts.

Meanwhile, MetLife has appointed Morgan Stanley (MS - Analyst Report), Citigroup Inc. (C - Analyst Report), Credit Suisse AG (CS - Snapshot Report), HSBC Holdings Plc and Deutsche Bank AG (DB - Analyst Report) as the joint book-running managers for the sale.

Ratings Action

Further, the above-mentioned debentures are rated “A3” and “A-” from Moody’s Investor Service and Fitch Ratings, respectively. However, Moody’s casted a negative outlook on this long-term debt, while Fitch affirmed its stable stance.

Both ratings agencies remain confident of MetLife’s capital flexibility, earnings growth potential on the heels of diversified business basket, large scale of operations and brand appreciation. However, Moody’s is wary of the pace of growth, which is likely to pose a sluggish trend given the low interest rate environment across developed and emerging economies.

Exposure to variable annuities and spread business further add to the woes. Nonetheless, since last year, MetLife has been strategically shifting toward potential opportunities in the emerging markets and employee benefit products, while driving away from capital-intensive and spread-dependent products.

MetLife’s financial leverage stood at 28% at the end of Jun 2013, which the ratings agencies believe should remain within 25%. Moreover, NAIC risk-based capital ratio that was 420% at the end of Jun 2013 should likely be around 450%.

While Fitch expects MetLife’s interest coverage of about 8x for 2013, Moody’s expect the company to maintain an over 8% return on capital, without depending on variable investment income, for a possible upgrade. Overall, MetLife has the potential to outperform the peer group in future.

While MetLife carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold), other outperformers in the insurance sector include EMC Insurance Group Inc. , Everest Re (RE - Analyst Report) and Global Indemnity Plc . All these stocks carry a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).