MetLife Inc. wrote the largest share of ordinary and group life insurance premiums in the first quarter of 2012, according to a new report.

SNL Financial LLC, Charlottesville, Va., published this finding in a new report that ranks premiums written by the top ten carriers of term and permanent insurance sold to individuals and, in the employer marketplace, group life insurance. The rankings exclude companies that write a significant amount of business outside of the U.S. to eliminate the effect of foreign currency conversions.

For the quarter ended March 31, MetLife’s market share, based on statutory total direct premiums, totaled 10.13%, exceeding the market share of the second highest writer, Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, by 2.2%. That’s up from the 0.84% in market share that separated the two companies in the first quarter of 2011.

However, MetLife’s life premiums in the first quarter dipped to $3.84 billion, down 2.1% from the $3.92 billion in life premiums recorded for the year-ago period.

The second and third highest writers of life insurance in SNL’s rankings, Northwestern Mutual (7.92% market share) and Prudential Financial Inc. (6.6%) enjoyed increases in life premiums in the first quarter. For the period ending March 31, Northwestern Mutual’s life premiums rose to $3 billion, up 2.79% from the 2.92 billion posted for the year-ago period.

Prudential Financial’s life premiums hit $2.5 billion, up 3.6% from the $2.4 billion recorded in the first quarter of 2011.

The fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-highest ranked companies in SNL’s scorecard of first quarter life premiums include, respectively New York Life Insurance Group, Manulife Financial Group and Lincoln Financial Group. These companies nabbed 6.31%, 3.71% and 3.65% of market share, respectively, during the first quarter.

Other companies ranked by SNL among the top ten life writers are Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (3.34% market share), State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance (2.78%), AEGON NV (2.75%) and Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (2.66%)

The top ten companies collectively accounted for nearly half (49.84%) of the industry’s market share in the first quarter, the report reveals. Collectively, they wrote $18.9 billion of the industry’s $37.9 billion in life premiums in the first quarter. This compares with $18.8 billion of the industry’s $36.9 billion in life premium for the year ago period, a 0.74% rise.