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AIG Bailout: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

In theory, this plan might have worked out fantastically: The bad debt was wiped from AIG's books, and now it could sell off non-core assets for reasonable prices, repay its debt and get back to business.

So far this year, AIG has closed nine transactions for subsidiaries across the globe in a range of businesses, including AIG Private Bank, which services high-net-worth clients; HSB Group, which provides insurance against equipment breakdown for industrial firms; financial subsidiaries in the Philippines and Thailand; two joint ventures in Brazil's banking industry; a gas-storage business called Tenaska; a Canadian life insurer; and other deals involving energy, infrastructure and commodities.

Terms of four deals were not disclosed, though under the outlined terms AIG will receive as much as $1.8 billion for HSB Group, AIG Life of Canada, AIG Retail Bank, AIG Card Thailand, a commodity-index business and an energy and infrastructure book.

While that sum is nothing to sneeze at, it doesn't go far in repaying a $150 billion loan. And unfortunately, AIG has been unable to solicit competitive bids for its remaining crown jewels on the auction block. According to several sources, those include American Life Insurance, its prized U.S. life insurance operation; American International Assurance, Asia's largest life insurer; International Lease Finance Corp., which has a fleet of over 900 planes; and a broker-dealer operation called AIG Advisor Group.

While some of those crown jewels may have lost value in the downturn, they are still healthy businesses with a potential to rise back to their former glory, says Robert Hartwig, an economist and president of the Insurance Information Institute. For instance, the value of AIG's fleet may have come down as major carriers have flooded the market with their own jets, but when demand and wealth pick up, that value will return.

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