MetLife's CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

MetLife (MET)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

April 27, 2012 8:00 am ET

Executives

John McCallion - Head of Investor Relations and Vice President

Steven A. Kandarian - Chairman of The Board, Chief Executive Officer, President and Chairman of Executive Committee

Eric T. Steigerwalt - Interim Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President

William J. Wheeler - President of The Americas

Steven J. Goulart - Chief Investment Officer and Executive Vice President

William Hogan -

Analysts

Thomas G. Gallagher - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

Ryan Krueger - Dowling & Partners Securities, LLC

Sean Dargan - Macquarie Research

John M. Nadel - Sterne Agee & Leach Inc., Research Division

A. Mark Finkelstein - Evercore Partners Inc., Research Division

Christopher Giovanni - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Randy Binner - FBR Capital Markets & Co., Research Division

Jamminder S. Bhullar - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

Edward A. Spehar - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Joanne A. Smith - Scotiabank Global Banking and Market, Research Division

John A. Hall - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division

Presentation

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the MetLife First Quarter 2012 Earnings Release Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, this conference is being recorded.

Before we get started, I would like to read the following statement on behalf of MetLife. Except with respect to historical information statements made in this conference call constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the federal securities laws, including statements relating to trends in the company's operations and financial results and the business and products of the company and its subsidiaries.

MetLife's actual results may differ materially from the results anticipated in the forward-looking statements as a result of risks and uncertainties, including those described from time to time in MetLife's filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. MetLife specifically disclaims any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future developments or otherwise.

With that, I would like to turn the call over to John McCallion, Head of Investor Relations.

John McCallion

Thank you, Marla, and good morning, everyone. Welcome the MetLife's First Quarter 2012 Earnings Call. We'll be discussing certain financial measures not based on Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, so-called non-GAAP measures. Reconciliations of these non-GAAP measures to the most directly comparable GAAP measures may be found on the Investor Relations portion of metlife.com, in our earnings press release, our quarterly financial supplements and in the other financial information section. A reconciliation of forward-looking financial information to the most directly comparable GAAP measure is not accessible because MetLife believes it is not possible to provide a reliable forecast of net investment and net derivative gains and losses, which can fluctuate from period to period and may have a significant impact on GAAP net income.

Also, please note that our -- that the financial results for this quarter and all prior periods reflect our new reporting structure, as well as the adoption and retrospective application of the new DAC accounting guidance. In addition, as provided in our earnings press release, we have recast our 2012 projected operating earnings by segment to align with the company's new financial reporting structure. In doing so, we have neither affirmed nor updated our 2012 projections, which were originally provided on December 5, 2011.

Now joining me this morning on the call are Steve Kandarian, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer; and Eric Steigerwalt, Interim Chief Financial Officer. After their prepared remarks, we will take your questions. Also, here with us today to participate in the discussion are other members of management, including Bill Wheeler, President of Americas; Steve Goulart, Chief Investment Officer; Michel Khalaf, President of EMEA; and Bill Hogan, Executive Vice President and Head of our Japan operations.

With that, I would like to turn the call over to Steve.

Steven A. Kandarian

Thank you, John, and good morning, everyone. I'm pleased to report that MetLife delivered strong financial results in the first quarter. We had healthy top line growth with premiums, fees and other income rising by 7% year-over-year. Our bottom line performance was even stronger. MetLife generated operating earnings of $1.5 billion or $1.37 per share, up 11% year-over-year. MetLife's performance during the quarter was driven by some fundamentals in the core earnings power of our diversified global portfolio of businesses.

Eric will discuss our segment results in greater detail. I wanted to provide a high-level overview of how each of our major geographic divisions is performing. Our businesses in the Americas, which consists of the United States, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay, performed very well in the first quarter. In our U.S. Business, operating earnings were up 12% year-over-year, driven by strong underwriting, improving core spreads and rising equity markets.

Variable annuity sales in the first quarter were down 13% year-over-year and 32% sequentially to $4.9 billion, consistent with our expectations. As a reminder, our target range for VA sales in 2012 is $17.5 billion to $18.5 billion. While our annualized first quarter sales put us slightly above the top end of the range, our expectation is that the product and pricing actions we have taken will result in sales within the target range.

In Latin America, operating earnings were up 22% year-over-year, driven by growth across the region and improved underwriting results. The region saw a very strong sales growth in accident and health, credit insurance and retirement products. In Mexico, our largest Latin American market, underwriting results for life products remained highly favorable, although increased competition could pressure growth going forward.

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