American General

(AGC)

said Tuesday that it met analysts' earnings projections for the fourth quarter, but indicated that earnings growth in 2001 should be on the low end of the company's 12% to 14% target range, as a result of the recent decline in the equity markets.

The retirement services, consumer finance and life insurance company said it earned $1.32 a share, before investment gains. Seventeen analysts polled by

First Call/Thomson Financial

were expecting the company to report that figure. The company earned $1.17 in the year-ago period.

The company also declared a 2-for-1 stock split and a 9% increase in its common stock dividend, both payable March 1 to shareholders of record Feb. 8. The company's new quarterly dividend rate will be 48 cents on a presplit basis.

Shares of American lost 56 cents, or 0.7%, to $75.63 in recent

New York Stock Exchange

trading.