Some life insurers are taking sharply different approaches to sales of universal life insurance.[@@]

Prudential Financial Inc., Newark, N.J., notes in its third-quarter earnings release that it has doubled its UL sales.

A competitor, Lincoln National Corp., Philadelphia, is emphasizing its efforts to avoid competing too fiercely for UL business.

Prudential is reporting $728 million in net income for the latest quarter on $7.3 billion in revenue, up from $297 million in net income on $6.7 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2003.

Profits and sales have improved at many units have improved.

At the retirement products unit, sales of guaranteed products increased to $1.7 billion, from almost $1 billion.

UL sales jumped to $48 million, from $24 million.

Lincoln is reporting $200 million in net income for the latest quarter on $1.4 billion in revenue, up from $133 million in net income on $1.3 billion in revenue.

There, UL sales have dropped to $217 million, from $232 million, because of “competitive pressure,” Lincoln says.

“Despite the competitive pressures, we remain focused on maintaining the balance between sound risk management and pricing discipline,” Lincoln Chairman Jon Boscia says in a statement about the third-quarter results.

Prudential and Lincoln also are reporting opposite trends in annuity flows.

At Prudential, investors pulled $161 million more cash out of variable annuities than they put in, down from a $174 million positive net flow of cash into the variable annuities in the third quarter of 2003. But fixed annuity net inflow increased to $90 million, up from $25 million in net outflow for the comparable quarter in 2003.

The opposite pattern prevailed at Lincoln. Lincoln is reporting $488 million in net VA inflow for the third quarter, up from $9,000 in net VA outflow. Net fixed annuity in flow fell to $228 million, from $286 million.