Sorry!! The article you are trying to read is not available now.
Thank you very much;
you're only a step away from
downloading your reports.

Insurance Companies Position Themselves for Bailout


Firms snatching up small banks to speed conversion to holding companies.

Insurance companies have now joined the growing list of American firms vying for a piece of the bailout pie.

According to the Wall Street Journal, large insurance companies are snatching up small regional banks to speed up their transition to savings-and-loan holding companies, thereby qualifying them for capital infusions from Washington.

Like Goldman Sachs (GS) and Morgan Stanley (MS), who recently made similar conversions, insurance companies are looking for billions of dollars in government money to shore up their battered balance sheets.

Over the last week, Hartford Financial Services (HIG) purchased Federal Trust of Sanford, Florida; Genworth Financial (GNW) bought a thrift in Maple Grove, Minnesota; and Lincoln National (LNC) agreed to buy a tiny bank in Goodland, Indiana, which has a mere $7 million in assets. For Lincoln, a company with over $180 billion in assets, that's just not very much money.

Insurance companies take in premiums from policy-holders, which they then use to buy up securities. As long as the income generated from those investments covers their payouts on claims, they turn a profit. Traditionally believed to be stogy, conservative firms, in recent years insurers dabbled in risky securities to juice profits. Using leverage, they added mortgage-backed securities to their core holdings of highly-rated corporate bonds.

The poster-child for these bad investments was, of course, AIG (AIG), which has now gobbled up almost $150 billion in taxpayer-funded bailout money.

And while AIG was the worst offender, its competitors have likewise seen the value of their investments erode in value in recent months. Last month, Met Life (MET), the largest US insurer by assets, raised capital to cover expected losses. Investors initially cheered the move, optimistic that the firm could get money at all.

In the last month, however, Met Life shares have lost almost 50% of their value.

And the bailout money is running thin. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson has said he won't petition Congress to release the second half of the $700 billion allocated for the bailout of the financial system. Confident the bailout is working, Paulson is urging lawmakers to hold on to the money for that proverbial rainy day.

The question, of course, is in what form the deluge will come. General Motors (GM)? General Electric (GE)? Or something else entirely?
< Previous
  • 1
Next >
No positions in stocks mentioned.

The information on this website solely reflects the analysis of or opin= =3D =3D3D ion about the performance of securities and financial markets by = the wr=3D iter=3D3D s whose articles appear on the site. The views expresse= d by the wri=3D ters are=3D3D not necessarily the views of Minyanville Medi= a, Inc. or members=3D of its man=3D3D agement. Nothing contained on the web= site is intended to con=3D stitute a recom=3D3D mendation or advice address= ed to an individual investor =3D or category of inve=3D3D stors to purchase= , sell or hold any security, or to =3D take any action with re=3D3D spect t= o the prospective movement of the securit=3D ies markets or to solicit t=3D= 3D he purchase or sale of any security. Any inv=3D estment decisions must b= e made =3D3D by the reader either individually or in =3D consultation with = his or her invest=3D3D ment professional. Minyanville write=3D rs and staff= may trade or hold position=3D3D s in securities that are discuss=3D ed in = articles appearing on the website. Wr=3D3D iters of articles are requir=3D = ed to disclose whether they have a position in =3D3D any stock or fund disc= us=3D sed in an article, but are not permitted to disclos=3D3D e the size o= r direct=3D ion of the position. Nothing on this website is intende=3D3D d = to solicit bus=3D iness of any kind for a writer's business or fund. Mi= ny=3D3D anville mana=3D gement and staff as well as contributing writers wi= ll not respo=3D3D nd to em=3D ails or other communications requesting inves= tment advice.

Copyright 2011 Minyanville Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Featured Videos