MetLife builds 3rd-party asset management, revamps real estate

NEW YORK, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Metlife Inc said Tuesdayit will build an asset-management business for outside investorsfocusing on investments in real estate equity, commercialmortgages and debt private placement.

"Asset management is a capital-efficient business withattractive returns on equity," Steven Goulart, MetLife's chiefinvestment officer, said in a statement. "The strong demand forhigh-quality private assets among institutional investors makesthis an attractive time for market entry."

MetLife, the largest U.S. life insurer, which manages some$500 billion in general account assets for its policyholders,currently has a small third-party management business focusingon index funds.

MetLife is reorganizing its real estate and privateplacement groups to facilitate the expansion.

Robert Merck, global head of real estate investments, willcontinue to run the group that has been renamed MetLife RealEstate Investors. It currently manages about $43 billion ofcommercial mortgages and $10 billion in direct real estateinvestments, assets that will be folded into the outsidemanagement business.

The new equity strategies group will be run by MarkWilsmann, who has led MetLife's commercial mortgage businesssince 2003.

The new debt strategies group, which will raise funds forreal estate projects from institutional investors that includeother insurance companies, pension plans and sovereign wealthfunds, will be run by Brian Casey. He has been heading MetLife'sWashington, D.C., real estate office.

The company, which says it is the largest life insurancelender, currently manages about $50 billion of privately placeddebt.

MetLife, which does not break out its individual portfolioinvestment returns, has no immediate plans to acquireasset-management companies.

"Right now our focus is building on the great strength wehave in-house," said Christopher Breslin, a company spokesman.

(Reporting by Jed Horowitz; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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