American International Group announced $3.6 billion in new costs to fill a reserve shortfall and said it will hold an initial public offering for its mortgage insurer and sell an adviser network as Chief Executive Peter Hancock seeks to boost returns and protect his job after criticism from activist investor Carl Icahn.
Hancock will have an IPO of a 19.9% stake in the mortgage guarantor United Guaranty as a first step toward a complete exit of that business, AIG said Tuesday in a statement ahead of the CEO's presentation to Wall Street. The insurer also is reorganizing into "modular" business segments to give the company flexibility to sell or take public additional units if they underperform. The insurer didn't provide timetables for most of the initiatives.
The plan is less ambitious than the proposals made by Icahn, who said in October that the insurer should break into three separate companies. The billionaire called last week for an alternate approach for the company to sell assets and narrow its focus to property and casualty coverage. New York-based AIG, which is also one of the largest life insurers in the U.S., trades for about 70% of book value, while large P&C rivals such as Chubb and Travelers are valued at more than the metric of assets minus liabilities.
"AIG believes that a full breakup in the near term would detract from, not enhance, shareholder value," Chairman Doug Steenland said in a statement. "The board's actions reflect its full support for the plans that Peter Hancock and his management team have put forward."
Icahn has said the insurer needs to shrink to escape its status as a systemically important financial institution, which can lead to tighter capital rules from the Federal Reserve. Hancock has said that the costs are not overly burdensome, and that the insurer will continue to be highly regulated even if it's not a SIFI.
Insurer MetLife, one of the other three non-bank SIFIs, said this month that it will separate a domestic retail unit with $240 billion in assets through a sale, spinoff or public offering as CEO Steve Kandarian seeks to limit regulation. General Electric said last week that it is targeting a March exit of too-big-to-fail status after wrapping up deals to sell commercial lending assets and unload a Utah bank charter.
Hancock vowed to return $25 billion to shareholders over the next two years as he reshapes the company after spending more than $9 billion in 2015 on share buybacks. He also announced the creation a "legacy" portfolio of assets that he will sell or wind down. Hancock designated Charlie Shamieh, who oversaw life, health and disability operations, as legacy CEO.
The reserve shortfall highlights weaknesses even at units that Icahn envisions as the core of a scaled-back company. The fourth-quarter pretax cost to fill the gap include $1.3 billion tied to policies from 2004 and earlier, with the remaining $2.3 billion covering the period of 2005 through 2014. Most of the expenses were tied to casualty coverage, where it can take many years before claims are fully paid.
AIG has been stung repeatedly by higher-than-expected costs from risks that the company assumed in the past, whether from environmental liabilities or workers' compensation policies. The company was built into the world's largest insurer by Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, and each of the five men who held the CEO post since his 2005 departure has grappled with the insurer's complexity.
The company shrank by half as AIG sold assets to repay a 2008 bailout, and Hancock narrowed the focus further after taking over in late 2014. He sold stakes in aircraft lessor AerCap Holdings and lender Springleaf Holdings while parting with businesses in Central America and Taiwan.
'Decade of Trying'
"After a decade of trying to fix the firm, given the substantial structural disadvantages unique to AIG, we believe breaking up AIG and selling it off piece by piece to its structurally advantaged peers is simply a more realistic path to creating shareholder value," Josh Stirling, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein, said Monday in a note.
The mortgage guarantor contributed $464 million in pretax operating income in the first nine months of last year, or about 12% of the total from commercial insurance. The United Guaranty unit is probably worth $3.5 billion or less, according to estimates in the past week from analysts John Nadel of Piper Jaffray and Meyer Shields of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. They cited the share plunges this year of publicly traded mortgage insurers like MGIC Investment and Radian Group.
That compares with AIG's market value of more than $68 billion as of Monday's close. Shields wrote in a note Sunday that the main focus should be boosting margins at larger property-casualty operations.