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MetLife Meets Estimates as Earnings Jump 26%

Updated from 11:54 a.m. EST

MetLife (MET), the insurance giant, said Tuesday that it hit Wall Street's profit target in the latest quarter, recording a 26% increase in its third-quarter operating earnings while posting solid gains in income from investments and life insurance.

MetLife reported operating earnings of $384 million, or 49 cents a share, in the quarter ended Sept. 30, compared with pro forma earnings of $305 million, or 39 cents a share, a year earlier. Analysts had anticipated earnings of 49 cents a share in the latest quarter, according to First Call/Thomson Financial, a research firm.

Metlife, which was a mutual insurance company owned by its policyholders in the third quarter of 1999, became a publicly traded company through an initial public offering in April.

MetLife finished Tuesday regular trading up $1.06, or 4%, at $27.13.

Operating earnings from MetLife's individual business, which includes life insurance and annuities, climbed 41% to $194 million from $138 million, while the company's institutional business, including group insurance and retirement plans, posted operating earnings of $159 million, up 31% from $121 million.

Overall revenue rose to $8 billion from $6.2 billion, while net income was virtually unchanged at $241 million, or 31 cents a share, compared with $242 million, or 31 cents a share, a year earlier. The latest quarter's net income include investment losses of $143 million, and the 1999 results include expenses of $33 million and taxes of $30 million from its conversion from being a mutual insurance company.

During the quarter that ended Sept. 30, New York-based MetLife bought back about 7.9 million shares at a cost of roughly $193 million. From April until the end of September, the company has repurchased 19.2 million shares at a cost of $407 million.

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