May 1, 2019 / 8:15 PM / a year ago

MetLife profit rises 8 percent on higher investment income

May 1 (Reuters) - MetLife Inc on Wednesday reported an 8 percent rise in profit for its last quarter under long-time Chief Executive Officer Steven Kandarian, driven by higher investment income and premiums.

Life insurers make money by investing premiums they receive for coverage, hoping to earn more than what they pay in claims.

Premiums and fees rose 2 percent to $11.26 billion in the first quarter from a year earlier.

However, claims eclipsed the growth, rising 4 percent to $9.07 billion.

MetLife's net investment income jumped 31 percent to $4.91 billion, driven by a rise in the value of certain securities. On an adjusted basis, it rose 1 percent despite relatively inactive markets in the quarter, versus a year ago, when steep U.S. corporate tax cuts roiled stock markets.

For the company, business grew across most regions, including the United States, Asia and EMEA, but fell 4 percent in Latin America due to higher expenses and a drop in underwriting fees.

The insurer has been trying to grow its Asia and EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) businesses to hold up to intense competition from online marketplace and in the United States, a market crowded with a bevy of insurers that offer competitive prices.

The U.S. life insurer's net income rose to $1.35 billion, or $1.40 per share, in the quarter ended March 31, from $1.25 billion, or $1.19 per share a year ago.

On an adjusted basis, the company earned $1.48 per share, compared with analysts' estimates of $1.22 per share, as per Refinitiv IBES data, although it was not immediately clear if the numbers were comparable.

Kandarian, who held the CEO position for eight years and helped the company ride through intense regulatory oversight in the wake of the financial crisis, will be replaced by Michel Khalaf on Wednesday. (Reporting By Aparajita Saxena in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)

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