By William Patalon III
Money Morning/The Money Map Report
American International Group Inc. (AIG), the largest U.S. insurance company by assets, may have to sell more than half its businesses to repay the $85 billion federal loan package it received last week. But it could actually reap as much as $115 billion by selling all its business units, analysts at Credit Suisse Group AG (ADR: CS) said yesterday (Tuesday).
In related news yesterday, AIG said it was suspending dividend payouts on its common stock to "conserve capital," Thomson Financial News reported.
AIG agreed to sell a 79.9% stake in itself to the federal government in return for a two-year loan for $85 billion. The government agreed to extend the credit line after the U.S. Federal Reserve said the collapse of AIG would seriously disrupt the U.S. financial markets. [Money Morning investigative report detailing just why AIG collapsed].
AIG Chief Executive Officer Edward M. Liddy, who was appointed by the government last week, has said the firm will pay off the two-year note early and that the insurance giant will be "nimbler" after asset sales, Bloomberg News reported.
Kristian P. Moor, CEO of AIG's property-and-casualty subsidiary, said the company intends to keep its U.S. commercial coverage and overseas life insurance units. Moor discussed AIG's plans in a conference call organized by Aon Corp. (AOC), the nation's largest insurance broker.
"If you had a vision of what AIG looked like going forward, at a minimum" there would be the U.S. commercial insurance operations and the foreign life operations, Moor said.
In a note to analysts yesterday, Credit Suisse Group analyst Thomas Gallagher said that AIG may have to sell half its businesses to repay the debt, but noted that the company "has plenty of high-quality businesses potentially for sale." The New York-based AIG operates in more than 100 countries, and will likely attract suitors from among its competitors in the United States, Canada, China, Australia and Europe, Gallagher said.
Indeed, the analyst believes that AIG's U.S. retirement-services unit and its oversea's life-insurance business are its two "most coveted" operations. AIG's foreign life insurance division could fetch more than $60 billion before taxes and its U.S. life and retirement companies may bring as much as $25.2 billion, he said. The aircraft-leasing unit could sell for $3.4 billion before taxes, he wrote in the investor note.
AIG's shares climbed 28 cents each, or 5.93%, to close at $5.00 yesterday. It was the fourth-straight day they've gained ground. On Monday, the shares soared as much as 43% — closing 23% higher – on speculation that quick asset sales would enable the insurance giant to repay the loan quickly and evade the clutches of the U.S. government, Reuters reported.
The stock has more than doubled since Sept. 17 when a lawyer for former CEO Maurice "Hank" Greenberg said he might try to end government involvement in the insurer "as prompt as possible." AIG sold for more than $72 a share in December 2006, Bloomberg reported.
According to Credit Suisse's Gallagher, AIG faces costs of about $33 billion related to bad investments and credit-default swaps, Gallagher said. The swaps, which back securities linked to subprime mortgages, led to about $25 billion in write-downs over nine months. Bloomberg reported that AIG had already borrowed $28 billion as of Sept. 17. Those figures came from a U.S. Federal Reserve report, although the full details of AIG's government-bailout deal haven't yet been made public.
News and Related Story Links:
Thomson Financial News:
AIG Halts Common Stock Dividends to Conserve Capital.
AIG Unit Sales May Bring $115 Billion, Gallagher Says.
Money Morning Investigative Series (Part II):
The Credit Crisis and the Real Story Behind the Collapse of AIG.
About the Author
Before he moved into the investment-research business in 2005, William (Bill) Patalon III spent 22 years as an award-winning financial reporter, columnist, and editor. Today he is the Executive Editor and Senior Research Analyst for Money Morning. With his latest project, Private Briefing, Bill takes you "behind the scenes" of his established investment news website for a closer look at the action. Members get all the expert analysis and exclusive scoops he can't publish... and some of the most valuable picks that turn up in Bill's closed-door sessions with editors and experts.