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Pru Eyeing Hartford Life Assets

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Prudential Financial, Inc., is negotiating to acquire the life insurance assets of the Hartford, which is divesting the majority of its life insurance businesses, according to several industry officials.

Both Thomas Hambrick, a spokesman for the Hartford, and Robert DeFillippo, a spokesman for Prudential, declined to comment.

Several industry officials confirmed that talks are underway, however, and that Pru is conducting due diligence, but a deal is unlikely to be consummated this month.

One of the sources said the talks are consistent with comments made by Hartford chairman, president and CEO Liam McGee during the company’s second-quarter earnings conference call, in which he said that the Hartford was “making progress executing on our strategy to focus the Hartford on its historical strength in insurance underwriting,” and that the “sales process for individual life and retirement plans is proceeding as expected.”

McGee added that he hopes to complete the divestiture process by the end of the year.

According to the second quarter earnings report, Hartford’s individual life second quarter 2012 core earnings were $25 million, compared with $41 million in the second quarter of 2011, which included a $3 million tax benefit.

In the earnings report, Hartford officials said the core earnings for life operations declined from the second quarter of 2011 due to increased death benefits and higher expenses, including $5 million, after tax, of restructuring and other costs.

Other sources also confirmed that Protective Life Insurance, Birmingham, Ala., was the other bidder.

The information was first disclosed by Bloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal online Saturday.

Several weeks ago, the Hartford announced it was selling its Woodbury annuity distribution business to American International Group.

The Hartford is divesting some of its life insurance businesses under pressure from John Paulson, a hedge fund manager in New York who complained that the life insurance business is weighing on its stock price because its property and casualty businesses are performing at a higher rate, with less capital required to run them profitably. The Hartford variable annuity business, already divested, was a focus of Paulson’s concerns.

Prudential is the No. 2 U.S. insurer. Its strategy is to improve overall results by bulking up on core businesses, Pru CEO John Strangfeld said in the company’s Aug. 2 earnings conference call.

Pru’s 10-Q said it has about $4 billion in cash and short-term investments available for either investment or paying down debt.