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AIG to pay off debt by selling assets

Latest update : 2008-10-04

Insurance giant AIG, embattled by the financial crisis, unveiled plans to sell "non-core" assets to pay off its loan from the US Federal Reserve, which would conclude a controversial government bailout.

Embattled insurance giant AIG announced plans Friday to sell off "non-core" assets to pay off its loan from the US Federal Reserve, which would conclude a controversial government bailout.
   
AIG chairman and chief executive Edward Liddy offered no timetable or specifics on the sales but said it would be "a deliberate and disciplined approach."
   
"We'll sell as many assets as needed to repay our obligations," he told a conference call.
   
AIG, or American International Group, had drawn 61 billion dollars from a Fed credit line of 85 billion dollars as of September 30.
   
Liddy did not rule out drawing down more from its Fed credit line.
   
"We don't know exactly where the borrowing from the Federal Reserve will top out at, and the reason we don't know is we don't know what market conditions will be like," he said.
   
"So to the extent we borrow more from the Fed we'll obviously have to sell more assets," he said.
   
AIG said it plans to retain "its US property and casualty and foreign general insurance businesses, and to retain a continuing ownership interest in its foreign life insurance operations" but would explore "divestiture opportunities for its remaining high-quality businesses and assets."
   
AIG shares reversed early gains and fell 3.5 percent to 3.86 dollars. Standard & Poor's said it may lower ratings on the insurance firm because of possible "downward pressure" on "a much smaller and less-diversified AIG."
   
But it said the company could benefit from the government's 700-billion-dollar bailout, expected to take troubled assets off the books of financial firms.
   
The AIG repayment would end a controversial US government bailout of the company, one of the world's biggest insurers, which had been on the brink of a collapse that would have sent more shock waves through the financial system.
   
The US Federal Reserve last month agreed to a loan of up to 85 billion dollars to stave off collapse at AIG. The deal sealed last month gave the US government a 79.9-percent stake in the insurance behemoth.
   
The Blackstone Group and JP Morgan will be AIG's global coordinators for the divestiture program, AIG said, adding that its "property and casualty businesses generated approximately 40 billion dollars in revenues in 2007.
   
Liddy, who assumed the helm at AIG after the bailout, said: "We are refocusing on our traditional strengths in property and casualty underwriting.
   
"We have a number of remarkable businesses with leading market positions and significant competitive advantages that could not be recreated today."
   
Libby said AIG had "already been contacted by numerous strong, stable parties, and we expect that buyers will recognize the value of these properties."
   
He added, "Our goal is to emerge from this process as a smaller but more nimble company that is solidly profitable and has good long-term growth prospects."
   
The AIG bailout announced September 16 came just days after the US government nationalized two other giants of the financial system, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, drowning from the collapse of the US real estate market.
   
AIG appeared to be in a death spiral after more than a week of panic and turmoil in financial markets that led to the failure of investment giant Lehman Brothers -- the biggest bankruptcy in US history -- and an emergency sale of Wall Street rival Merrill Lynch.
   
Some analysts said the action orchestrated by Fed chairman Ben Bernanke with the blessing of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson pushes the government further toward nationalization.
   
Far more than other insurers, AIG has been a big player in a complex parallel market called credit default swaps (CDS), financial instruments in which Wall Street companies take out a form of market insurance against the risks of bond default.
   
These products, often linked to the US real estate market, are at the heart of the current banking crisis and have led to massive write-downs of assets around the world.

Date created : 2008-10-04

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