NU Online News Service, July 16, 3:15 p.m. – Phoenix Companies Inc., Hartford, should post sound growth now that it has demutualized, according to analysts at Merrill Lynch & Company Inc., New York.

The analysts predict in a recent note that Phoenix will post a 3.5% operating return on equity in 2002. This is well below the 13% return posted by John Hancock Financial Services Inc., Boston, and the 10% return posted by Metlife Inc., New York, at the time of their demutualizations. But Phoenix has created more value for policyholders over the long term than the average mutual insurer, the analysts argue.

Phoenix is reporting a strong net flow of funds into its life insurance and annuities, and that should translate into strong growth in account balances, the Merrill analysts write.