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AIG Plans To Sell Domestic Life Operations

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American International Group Inc. says it may sell North American life subsidiaries such as American General, VALIC and SunAmerica and focus mainly on property-casualty operations.

AIG, New York, intends to continue to own a stake in life operations outside the United States, the company says.

The company is “actively at work on a number of alternatives for its financial products business and its securities lending program,” and its goal is for the divestiture process to “generate sufficient liquidity to repay the outstanding balance of its loan from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and address its capital structure,” the company says.

As of Wednesday, AIG had drawn $61 billion of the $85 billion credit facility that the New York Fed set up for the company in mid-September.

AIG’s property-casualty operations generated about $40 billion in revenue in 2007, AIG says.

“We are refocusing on our traditional strengths in property and casualty underwriting,” AIG Chairman Edward Liddy said today during an analyst teleconference. “To realize our objective, we will sell a number of extraordinary businesses that are proving to be highly attractive to buyers.”

Many “strong, stable parties” already have contacted AIG about buying units of AIG, Liddy said.

“Our strong intent would be to sell [the U.S. life and retirement] operations in toto, to one buyer,” Liddy said.

The Blackstone Group L.P., New York, and J.P. Morgan Chase & Company, New York, are helping AIG run its asset divestiture program, AIG says.

AIG plans to use a “deliberate and disciplined approach” to selling assets, and, if efforts to get cash from the financial products and securities lending operations work, “we will sell fewer assets,” Liddy said.

AIG will prefer bigger transactions, and transactions involving well-known buyers with strong ratings and strong balance sheets, Liddy said.

“We will look favorably on preemptively priced offers,” Liddy said.

Andrew Kligerman, a securities analyst with UBS Investment Research, New York, asked Liddy why AIG had not put the New York Fed credit facility deal up for the shareholder vote that normally would have been required.

AIG obtained a special exemption from the New York Stock Exchange to avoid holding a shareholder vote.

“Speed was of the essence,” Liddy said. “A couple of weeks, or a couple of days, could have made all the difference in the world in terms of outcome.”

But Liddy said there might be “some upside” in what AIG can work out with the New York Fed.

Also during the teleconference, AIG said that, although dividends on common shares have been suspended, the company expects to continue to pay interest on its preferred stock, which is structured as debt.

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, New York, reacted to the teleconference by revising the CreditWatch status of its ratings on AIG and AIG’s guaranteed subsidiaries to negative, from developing.

S&P also has kept its ratings on most of AIG’s insurance operating subsidiaries on CreditWatch with developing implications.

The $61 billion AIG draw on the New York Fed credit facility “is much larger than we had previously anticipated,” S&P credit analyst Rodney Clark says. “This has caused the scope of the planned business sales to exceed our expectations.”

The credit market turmoil could make getting attractive prices for AIG businesses difficult, and AIG could emerge from the divestitures as a smaller, less-diversified company, S&P says.

Over the longer term, the new Troubled Asset Relief Program that was included in the newly passed Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 bill and anticipated changes in mark-to-market accounting rules should help AIG, S&P says.

S&P has assigned an A plus financial strength rating to most of AIG’s insurance operating subsidiaries.

The subsidiaries have strong competitive positions, earnings and capital levels but also face investment risk, S&P says.

The insurance subsidiaries’ rates “are on CreditWatch developing to indicate that they could be raised or lowered, depending on whether or not AIG sells them and, if it does, who the buyer is,” S&P says.


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