MetLife Is Optimistic on 2003

MetLife ( MET) said Wednesday that its 2003 earnings would be higher than expected, citing effective cost-cutting measures.

The New York-based insurer said it expects to post an operating profit of $2.80 a share to $2.90 a share in 2003, which would be up 10% to 15% from 2002. Wall Street analysts were expecting the company to earn $2.76 a share, according to a poll conducted by research firm Thomson Financial/First Call. Operating return on equity is expected to be in the range of 12.5% to 13% in 2003. MetLife also expects to post 10% to 15% annual earnings growth through 2005.

"The strength and diversification of MetLife's businesses provides us with the opportunity to grow, despite current economic conditions," said MetLife chairman and CEO Robert Benmosche in a release. "Our continued focus on disciplined expense management will also help us to offset an expected increase in the company's pension and other post-retirement benefit costs, as well as the impact from our decision to expense stock options," Benmosche said.

MetLife's shares were up $1.15, or 4.4%, at $27.81 in late morning action on the New York Stock Exchange. Heading into Wednesday's session, the stock was up about 28% from its 52-week low set back on Oct. 4 of this year.

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