February 6, 2019 / 9:20 PM / 14 days ago

MetLife beats profit estimates on volume growth, U.S. underwriting

Feb 6 (Reuters) - Life insurer MetLife Inc reported a better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit on Wednesday, helped by solid volume growth and favorable underwriting in its U.S. group retirement business and higher group sales in Latin America.

Earnings at its U.S. retirement business more than doubled, also due to higher investment margins and changes in the U.S. tax law, helping boost overall adjusted profits in the United States up 38 percent.

The results follow a quarter that analysts anticipated would be challenging for many life insurers, whose massive investment portfolios were caught in the whims of tumultuous markets toward the end of 2018.

Excluding one-time items, MetLife earned $1.35 per share. Analysts on average had expected earnings of $1.28 per share, according to Refinitiv data.

However, net income fell to $2 billion from $2.3 billion a year earlier due to weaker underwriting fees in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Net investment income also slid to $3.46 billion from $4.45 billion a year earlier, driven by changes in the estimated fair value of certain securities. Adjusting for those changes, net investment income rose 7 percent. (Reporting by Diptendu Lahiri in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar)

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