MetLife Profit Matches Forecasts as Revenue Rises 6%

MetLife, the largest life insurer in the United States by assets, said that earnings rose in the first quarter, matching analyst estimates, as total premiums, fees and other revenues climbed 6%.

MetLife, which last year sold two of the largest apartment complexes in Manhattan, said net earnings were $983 million or $1.28 a share, up from $714 million or 93 cents a share in the year earlier quarter, when final net was affected by losses from investments and derivatives.

Analysts on average had expected the insurer to earn $1.28 a share, according to Thomson Financial.

MetLife said operating earnings, which analysts use to measure performance because it excludes investments, were $1.08 billion, or $1.41 a share. In the year ago quarter, the New York-based insurer earned $1.03 billion or $1.33 a share.

MetLife said total premiums, fees and other revenue rose to $8.4 billion, up 6% from the previous year, and it reached a record $537.8 billion in total assets.

"Some businesses did better than others, but it all averaged out to a good return," said Matt Nellans, an analyst with Morningstar.

MetLife's shares closed at $65.86 on the New York Stock Exchange. In the last 12 months, MetLife shares have risen 26 percent or about twice the gain in the Standard & Poor's insurance index.

Shares in MetLife's closest competitor, Prudential Financial , rose 21% during the same period.

"There were a few question marks along with the bright spots," said Craig Weber, an analyst with Celent LLC. MetLife's individual business operating results, which included life insurance and annuities, were down 22%, as sales of universal life policies declined. "It's a tepid market," said Weber. "They will have to invigorate sales."

Analysts have hinted that there may be more real estate transactions in pipeline. In 2006 MetLife sold Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town, two apartment complexes in Manhattan for $5.4 billion. It reported a $3 billion after-tax gain from the sale.