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MetLife Hedges Its Way onto a Perilous Path

Stocks in this article: MET AIG STI

Part of that story involved the federal government ushering MetLife closer to "too big to fail" status. Financial regulators use nicer terms like "systematically important" as a working euphemism.

Whatever the regulators call it, this puts MetLife under tighter government scrutiny. No company wants to be on the Fed's radar screen, and the management of MetLife protested the government's increasing oversight.

Of course that's not even close to a "natural disaster." But net derivative losses of $1.69 billion when compared to the year-ago quarter's net derivatives gains of around $2.09 billion is no small setback.

In the positive news category MetLife and SunTrustBanks (STI) announced in a press release on Aug. 5 that SunTrust will finance commercial real estate mortgages originated and managed by MetLife Real Estate Investors.

Did you know about that newly created commercial real estate division of MetLife? It was news to me as well, and it includes a good size loan from SunTrustBanks to MetLife's new platform!

The loan is to be structured over three years with a possible total investment from SunTrust of up to $5 billion, subject to approval of each loan. The press release said that the structured loan "... reinforces SunTrust's commitment to commercial real estate."

"We welcome SunTrust as a client and partner as it brings strong regional and national expertise that complements our long-standing real estate investment heritage," said Steven J. Goulart, executive vice president and chief investment officer of MetLife.

Goulart said, "This unique partnership supports our larger strategy to provide innovative and reliable investment vehicles to our clients."

He was referring to MetLife's recent launching of an institutional asset management business to "... leverage its capabilities to invest on behalf of institutional clients."

The new business venture builds upon the company's confidence in its expertise and past success in originating both commercial mortgages and private placement debt.

It also introduces to more analysts and investors MetLife's experience with investing in real estate equities. With today's very low interest rates and with real estate recovering this may be a very smart idea.

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