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) -- As

American International Group's

(AIG) - Get American International Group, Inc. Report

latest fait accompli comes to a close, Wall Street is coming around to a realization the market reached long ago: There's value in the stock.

On Friday, AIG finally offered its Asian life-insurance unit to the market in an IPO that values the subsidiary at $30.5 billion - seizing the top end of its valuation range. The move followed a months-long battle over the method of divestiture, valuation and timing that nearly led AIG's CEO Robert Benmosche to walk out the door.

The successful offering is also part of AIG's plan to repay the last chunk of $182 billion in bailout funds. The government funneled that cash into the insurance giant two years ago to keep AIG on life support. At the time, it seemed safe to assume that AIG stock investors might be completely wiped out - the government effectively owned 80% of the firm and its stock entered penny territory.

Dan Alpert, managing partner for Westwood Capital evoked a common sentiment

in an interview with


in August 2009, as AIG shares flew up and down like a spasmodic ping pong ball: "It makes no sense. It's all a sideshow."


in another interview with


last week of an entirely different tenor, Fairholme Capital's Bruce Berkowitz - the first high-profile fund manager to dive back into AIG shares last year - explained his decision this way: "If you've looked at what the company was doing and earning, and if you looked at the maximum dilution at every point in the process, it did not look like our shareholders would get hurt."

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On Friday, AIG shares were up 1% at $41.68, moving toward the top of its 52-week trading range in the thirteenth consecutive session above the $40 mark.

Benmosche is

responsible for a healthy portion of that confidence surge. He's turned things around in short order since taking the helm in August 2009.

AIG will have repaid nearly all its bailout funds from the

Federal Reserve

following the AIA divestiture and a $15 billion deal to sell another unit to


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. The company has whittled down the toxic derivatives book in its financial-services arm to a fraction of its one-time height. It has also sold dozens of noncore assets in deals small and large and announced a plan to repay the U.S. government - in full, at a potential profit - by sometime in 2011.

Earlier this year, when the CEO told attendants of AIG's annual meeting

that shareholders would have equity in the company when all was said and done, there was still some quiet scoffing on the Street. In the five months that have passed, the notion has flipped from absurd to assumed.

When the taxpayer-payback was announced on Sept. 30, Benmosche called it a "pivotal milestone" for the company: "With this plan underway, we can concentrate our full attention on managing our businesses for the benefit of all of our stakeholders."

Earlier this week, UBS analyst Andrew Kligerman issued a "short term buy" rating on the stock, with a $45 price target over the next year.

"Our updated

sum-of-the-parts analysis...yields a fair value range of $38-39 per AIG common share," said Kligerman.

Though the analyst still holds a long-term "neutral" rating on the shares, Kligerman said the stock may see a lift from warrants that will soon be issued. His target price is the same strike price for those warrants, which investors will receive as the U.S. Treasury Department exchanges $49.1 billion worth of stock from preferred to common. The government's stake will increase temporarily until the Treasury starts selling off its stake in coming quarters.

Kligerman says "overhang from U.S. government's pro-forma 92% common stake may prove less punitive than feared--and AIG shares will ultimately benefit from a larger float."

CreditSights, which primarily looks at the value in debt securities, issued another report on Friday detailing three possible valuation scenarios for AIG.

"Our main takeaway is that there is equity value in all three scenarios we explored," said analysts.

In the best-case scenario, the firm is worth $102.9 billion, leaving $55.4 billion for equity investors - or $36.34 per share. The mid-case scenario outlines $82.4 billion in value, with $34.9 billion, or $22.89 per share, for stock investors. The worst-case leaves just $54.2 billion in value, with $6.6 billion for the equity side, or $4.33 per share.

Analysts said they believe "the most appropriate current valuation may lie somewhere in between our Best Case and our Mid Case" - roughly $45 billion. But much of the valuation depends on where the financial markets go. And, as CreditSights acknowledged, AIG is such a large and complex company that valuing its assets is "problematic at best."

According to


, five equity analysts cover AIG, with opinions mixed - half advise clients to buy, half advise clients to sell or avoid the stock completely and one advises clients to sit on the sidelines and see how things go. The average target price is $26.50, with the high target $45.

Yet few have said much about the stock over the past two years and most analysts dropped coverage entirely in the fall of 2008. Since then, its ticker's reputation has changed from a playground for speculators to one that long-term investors wish they had bought when it was trading for less than a pack of Wrigley's in early 2009.

Benmosche converted the stock in a reverse 20-for-1 split last year - a move that was characterized by many as superficial window-dressing, but which ultimately helped bolster its reputation. The $1.08 AIG closed at before the action in July 2009 now looks more pithy than pathetic.

When Benmosche came into the firm as -- in his terms -- a "bull in a china shop," it was unclear how long he might last. He's threatened to quit more than once, most recently over a dispute with the board regarding AIA. Instead, then-Chairman Harvey Golub offered a letter of resignation and AIG has continued to make progress toward its end goal of independence.

"Overall," says CreditSights, "AIG has been an amazing turnaround story since its bailout."

Read more on the tick-tock of AIG's turnaround:

>>> AIG: What's Driving Up the Stock?

>>>AIG, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Rise From the Dead

>>>AIG Stock Slumps, as Insurer Weighs Options

>>>AIG CEO: Shareholders Count, Too

>>> Berkowitz Q&A On AIG Investment

>>> Berkowitz Dives Deeper Into AIG Stock

>>>AIG Stock Price Relies on Benmosche

-- Written by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York


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Lauren Tara LaCapra


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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.