UPDATE 2-Analysts bet on MetLife's capital strength, shares soar

martedì 9 dicembre 2008 19:16

(Adds details, background, updating share movement)

By Anurag Kotoky

BANGALORE Dec 9 (Reuters) - MetLife Inc (MET.N: Quotazione), the largest U.S. life insurer, is well positioned to outperform peers with its strong capital position, according to several Wall Street analysts.

Shares of the insurer soared as much as 16 percent in early trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

At least 9 brokerages maintained their top ratings on the company, a day after the company said it was strongly capitalized and expects to grow faster than its rivals. [ID:nN08498291]

"If there was a message from yesterday's series of presentations (by MetLife), it was we did things right, we are here because we did things right and we are not going anywhere because we did things right," Raymond James said.

The rally in MetLife shares lifted those of its peers, such as Prudential Financial Inc (PRU.N: Quotazione) and Hartford Financial Services Group Inc (HIG.N: Quotazione) that jumped 11 percent each, and the broader Dow Jones U.S. life insurance index that rose as much as 7 percent.

In October, MetLife posted sharply lower third-quarter profit, hurt by investment losses. Since then, it and others in the life insurance sector have seen their shares battered as investors fretted that losses on investments could grow.

"Within a market where balance sheet strength and earnings quality merit a healthy valuation premium, we believe the company (MetLife) is poised to emerge as the benchmark global insurance stock," Citigroup said while "unequivocally" reiterating its "buy" rating on the stock.   Continua...