Brighthouse Financial falls 4 pct in debut

Aug 7 (Reuters) - Shares of Brighthouse Financial Inc , the U.S. retail insurer spun off from MetLife Inc, fell 4 percent in market debut on Monday as it goes solo in an industry struggling with low interest rates.

Brighthouse's shares touched a low of $62 in early trading, giving it a market capitalization of $7.43 billion.

The completion of the spinoff, a plan unveiled last year, ends MetLife's reign as the largest U.S. life insurer by assets.

That title will now be held by Newark, New Jersey-based Prudential Financial Inc, which had $797.4 billion in assets as of March 31, according to a filing and data from the American Council of Life Insurers.

Following the spinoff, MetLife will be left with core businesses centered mainly around group life-insurance and other employee benefits, asset management and a clutch of international operations.

"Our goal for post-separation MetLife is to be a company that can perform well in a variety of macroeconomic environments," wrote Steven Kandarian, MetLife's chairman and chief executive officer, in an April letter to investors.

A slimmed-down MetLife is likely to help the company in its legal battle against the U.S. Financial Stability Oversight Council naming it "systemically important" in 2014.

The designation - which triggers stricter regulatory oversight as the insurer has the potential to devastate the financial system if it fails - was struck down by a U.S. judge last year.

Last week, a U.S. appeals court said that a U.S. government appeal of a ruling last year that the label was wrongly applied to MetLife would remain in abeyance until further court order.

Any legal decision on whether MetLife should be labeled "too big to fail" will probably come after the Trump administration defines its stance on the designation. (http://reut.rs/2fakPtM)

Brighthouse, which is led by Chief Executive Eric Steigerwalt, holds $223 billion of total assets and about 2.8 million insurance policies and annuity contracts as of March 31, according to a filing.

Brighthouse has been doing business under the name since March. In May, the company unveiled its first new product, a deferred annuity whose performance is tied to one of three investment indexes. (Reporting By Aparajita Saxena in Bengaluru and Suzanne Barlyn in New York; Editing by Anil D'Silva)