(Reuters) – Insurer MetLife Inc reported a marginal rise in fourth-quarter adjusted profit on Wednesday as investment growth and underwriting gains in some of its U.S. businesses cushioned the hit from coronavirus-related claims.
MetLife reported adjusted earnings of $1.84 billion, or $2.03 per share, beating analysts’ average estimates of $1.52 a share, according to Refinitiv IBES data.
Variable investment income totaled $778 million in the quarter, nearly all from private-equity investments.
MetLife earned $1.126 billion in such income for the full year, topping the target of $900 million to $1.1 billion it set a year ago.
On underwriting, payouts for dental and other non-medical health claims were lower, cushioning the effect of higher claims from life insurance caused by COVID-19-related deaths, the company said.
Adjusted earnings of the insurer’s U.S. business jumped 51% to $1.02 billion, while the company’s overall net investment income grew by 13% to $5.24 billion on strong returns from private equity investments.
That helped MetLife offset weak performance in Latin America, where its business was impacted by claims from deaths linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Global life insurers are taking steps to curb payouts stemming from the health crisis, including long-term health consequences that are not fully understood.nL1N2JP1SV]
In the United States, 8% of reported group life insurance claims from April to August attributed the cause of death to COVID-19, according to the U.S. Society of Actuaries.
MetLife also said its net derivative losses widened 7% from a year earlier to $1.56 billion.
The insurer holds a book of derivatives to hedge against the risk of market swings. Such gains do not indicate the actual performance of the company, but reflect the effect of accounting rules, an issue that has occurred in some previous quarters.
(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru, Alwyn Scott in New York and Suzanne Barlyn in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania; Editing by Aditya Soni and Bill Berkrot)