Park Meadows Mall, Denver, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET) announced today that it originated, through its Real Estate Investments Department, over $11 billion in commercial mortgage loans in 2011, exceeding the more than $8 billion the company originated in 2010, and making it the company’s largest production year ever. MetLife continues to be the largest portfolio lender in the insurance industry, with $40 billion in commercial mortgage loans outstanding.

 “MetLife has built its commercial real estate lending business on key guiding principles, which enabled us to strategically navigate through the economic downturn during the past few years and remain an active lender in the market,” said Robert Merck, senior managing director and global head of real estate investments for MetLife.

To reach its commercial mortgage lending volume, MetLife Real Estate Investments completed a number of high-quality real estate transactions with loan sizes of $200 million and above, including: $350 million on 1540 Broadway, an office building in Manhattan; $255 million on 155 North Wacker, an office building in Chicago; $360 million on Park Meadows in Denver and a $325 million loan on International Plaza in Tampa, both super-regional malls.

MetLife also led a renewed effort among major life insurance companies to work together to “club” large, high-quality loans on several properties, including: 601 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan; 555 California in San Francisco; and Natick Mall in Boston.

Outside the U.S., MetLife grew its lending activities in 2011, originating more than $600 million in mortgages in Mexico and nearly $800 million in London. MetLife is also an active lender in Japan, with more than 36 billion yen in lending in 2011.

“In 2012, we expect that MetLife will continue to take advantage of its market-leading position among portfolio lenders to expand its commercial mortgage activity globally through our regional offices in London, Mexico City and Tokyo,” said Merck. “We are particularly attracted by the market opportunity in the U.K., where very favorable conditions continue for lenders like MetLife.”

MetLife’s investment focus includes office, multi-family, industrial and retail properties in top metropolitan markets. The company had a $40 billion commercial mortgage portfolio as of December 31, 2011.