MetLife to gain from strong capital position: analysts

Tuesday 09, December, 2008 MetLife Inc, the largest U.S. life insurer, is likely to benefit from its strong capital position relative to the overall industry, analysts said. Shares of the company rose almost 16 per cent in early trade on the New York Stock Exchange. Analysts at Barclays Capital and Fox-Pitt Kelton maintained their top ratings on the company, a day after MetLife said it was strongly capitalized and expects to grow faster than its rivals. "MetLife presents one of the best general operating pictures among the life insurers we follow: a highly diversified business mix; excess capital; considerable earnings flexibility..." Barclays analyst Eric Berg wrote in a note. Berg, who has an "overweight" rating on the company, however, slashed his price target on MetLife stock by about 28 percent to $47 to reflect sharply reduced valuations in general in the life insurance group. Fox-Pitt's Mark Finkelstein said MetLife's long-term growth and earnings fundamentals remain intact as its strong capital position should drive its growth ahead of the industry. He maintained an "outperform" rating on the stock. MetLife shares were up $4.56 at $34.59 in morning trade on the New York Stock Exchange. They touched a high of $34.76 earlier in the session

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