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MetLife to part with U.S. retail life insurance business

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No. 1 U.S. insurer MetLife Inc. said it plans to divest a large portion of its U.S. retail segment to focus instead on its group life and employee benefits business.

The New York-based life insurer, which has been designated a systemically important financial institution by the U.S. Treasury Department's Financial Stability Oversight Council, is considering a sale, spinoff or initial public offering, MetLife said Tuesday in a statement.

MetLife will continue to sell its group life insurance and other voluntary benefit products, as well as its pension and retirement products. It will also continue with its operations in Asia, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, according to the statement.

MetLife cited increased capital requirements from its SIFI designation as its reason for parting with a portion of its U.S. retail segment. The piece constitutes about one-fifth of the firm's overall operating earnings, MetLife said. The divested segment would have about $240 billion of total assets, it said.

MetLife will retain the U.S. retail segment's life insurance closed block, property/casualty insurance, and the life and annuity business sold through Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., which will no longer write new retail life and annuity business after the divestiture, according to the statement.

The divestiture would “bring significant benefits to MetLife as we continue to execute our strategy to focus on businesses that have lower capital requirements and greater cash-generation potential,” MetLife Chairman, President and CEO Steven A. Kandarian said in the statement. “In the U.S., it would allow us to focus even more intently on our group business, where we have long been the market leader. Globally, we will continue to do business in a mix of mature and emerging markets to drive growth and generate attractive returns.”