NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Snoopy's better off sticking with life insurance, rather than playing banker. MetLife ( MET) announced on Wednesday that is annual dividend -- payable on Dec. 14 to shareholders of record as of Nov. 9 -- would remain unchanged at 74 cents a share, because the Federal Reserve had rejected the life insurer's plan to increase the dividend and resume share buybacks.
The problem is that even though MetLife is primarily an insurer, the company is considered a bank holding company and regulated by the Fed because it holds a relatively small banking subsidiary in MetLife Bank, NA of Morristown, N.J. MetLife had over $771 billion in total assets as of June 30, and the bank subsidiary a paltry $16.5 billion, but that's enough to shackle the company -- and its investors -- with a regulatory ball and chain. The company is actively trying to sell MetLife Bank's depository business, and announced on Oct. 12 that it was also exploring a sale of the bank's forward mortgage business, as "exiting the depository business and deregistering as a bank holding company also will enable MetLife to operate within the same regulatory framework as other insurance companies. " MetLife Bank began originating traditonal and reverse mortgages in 2008 which is surprisingly late in the game, considering that the credit crisis peaked that year. MetLife will report its third-quarter results after the market closes on Thursday, followed with a conference call at 8 a.m. Friday. The consensus among analysts polled by FactSet is for the company to post earnings of $1.06 a share for the third quarter, declining from $1.13 in the second quarter, but rising from 32 cents in the third quarter of 2010. MetLife passed federal regulators' two previous rounds of stress tests for the largest U.S. bank holding companies and also managed to avoid the stigma of being bailed out through the Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP. But the company will be subject to the Federal Reserve's 2012 Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review, after which CEO Steven Kandarian looks "forward to seeking and gaining approval" for MetLife's capital plan.