Brighthouse Financial Inc., a company that has inherited MetLife’s retail life and annuity operations, began trading today, under its own stock symbol, BHF, on the Nasdaq Stock Market.
Eric Steigerwalt, the president and chief executive officer of Brighthouse, came up from the company’s headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, to team up with Steve Kandarian, the president and CEO of MetLife, to ring the Nasdaq MarketSite opening bell, in New York’s Times Square.
Brighthouse begins independent life with $219 billion in total assets, 2.7 million life policies and annuity contracts in force, and relationships with more than 400 distributors.
The company’s shares started trading at a price of about $62 per share, giving the company a total market capitalization of more than $7 billion.
MetLife continues to be a major player in the U.S. group life, employee benefits and asset-management markets, and it also has major insurance operations outside the United States.
MetLife turned Brighthouse into a separate company by giving shares of Brighthouse stock to its own shareholders through a special stock dividend.
MetLife carved out the Brighthouse operations partly because of concerns about Dodd-Frank Act rules that may subject “systemically important financial institutions” to extra layers of regulation, and partly because of concerns about the effects of prolonged low interest rates on interest-sensitive insurance products.
The Brighthouse separation may also reduce MetLife’s exposure to the effects of U.S. Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, and of other federal financial services product sales and marketing rules, on issuers of retail financial services products.
Kandarian suggested in an interview on CNBC that Brighthouse stock might be attractive to investors who want to place a bet on the possibility that interest rates will soon start to rise.
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