NU Online News Service, Sept. 13, 3:50 p.m. – American Skandia could be a good buy for the right financial-services company, according to Andrew Kligerman, an analyst at Bear Stearns & Company, New York.

American Skandia, a Shelton, Conn.-based unit of Skandia Insurance Company Ltd., Stockholm, has been a major player in the U.S. variable-annuity market for years.

American Skandia prospered in the mid-1990s, but the recent stock-market slump has hit its variable-annuity operations hard. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Skandia Insurance wants out.

An American Skandia spokesperson declined to comment on the reports.

Kligerman says insurers that want to enter the VA market would be the prime candidates for acquiring part or all of the business. His short list includes Prudential Financial Inc., Newark, N.J.; Allstate Corp., Northbrook, Ill.; and Jefferson Pilot Corp., Greensboro, N.C.

“American Skandia is one of the biggest players [in the VA market],” Kligerman says. “Skandia has been known for competitive VA products and excellent services. So it is attractive.”

But Kenneth Kehrer, head of Kenneth Kehrer Associates in Princeton, N.J., notes that American Skandia’s bank VA sales have declined.

Up until 2001, the company was one of the top five VA vendors selling through the bank channel, Kehrer says.

Today, he says, “American Skandia is a disappearing presence in banks. In the first half of this year, it dropped to 15th place. Many banks have either stopped or reduced selling of its products.”