AIG CEO Liddy Says Asset Sales May Be Delayed

By | December 11, 2008

The CEO of U.S. insurer American International Group (AIG), which is looking to shed assets around the globe as part of a $152 billion U.S. government rescue package, said that difficult markets may delay the sale plans, though certain units have attracted heavy interest.

“These are challenging times to undertake divestitures,” Chief Executive Edward Liddy said during a presentation to the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong on Thursday.

He said in a speech that the pace and the order of the asset sales may change, and that announcements on certain transactions may take a couple of months or longer. Liddy said after the speech that at least in Asia, he didn’t expect to meet with potential buyers until January.

The need to post increasing amounts of collateral to counterparties for guarantees on toxic mortgage securities left AIG with deep losses over the last four quarters, dropping $42.5 billion in that period.

The U.S. government saved AIG from bankruptcy in September with a rescue plan that has since ballooned to about $152 billion. That is forcing AIG to shed or sell stakes in units globally. It has 74 million customers and 116,000 employees in 130 countries.

The division Liddy singled out was International Lease Finance Corp., which leases aircraft, and is regarded as one of the most attractive of the company’s assets on the block. Liddy said on Thursday that there is “great” interest in the unit.

Liddy, who came out of retirement to take the reins at AIG three months ago, was on his first overseas trip with the company, aptly choosing Asia as his first stop. AIG started in Shanghai 89 years ago.

The company’s Asian insurance units have attracted a long list of potential buyers. Liddy said he was in Hong Kong to speak with AIG employees and investment bankers running the sales of those units.

At the end of his speech, Liddy answered a question regarding the speed at which AIG would repay the $152 billion.

He said the company has not been loaned that entire amount, rather the federal government has loaned it $40 billion, which could grow to $60 billion. Liddy explained that there are also two financing vehicles.

“They transfer risk and opportunity from those RMBs (residential mortgage backed securities) to the Federal Reserve. I would suspect that the Fed will do very well on those.”

The former chairman and CEO of The Allstate Corp. said that a Wall Street Journal article saying that AIG is facing $10 billion in losses on speculative trades that went sour is old news.

“There is nothing new there,” he said, adding that the exposure to the financial instruments was previously disclosed.

ASSET SALES

Reuters reported on Wednesday that insurance companies Axa SA , MetLife Inc., Prudential Plc, and China’s sovereign wealth fund CIC were all in talks to buy a Japanese unit of AIG in a deal that could fetch $10.8 billion.

Each of the four firms is in separate talks with AIG about buying its unit, American Life Insurance Co., or Alico, Reuters reported.

Liddy did not mention Alico or another major Asian unit, Singapore-based AIA. Reuters previously reported there was interest in AIA. Citigroup and Goldman Sachs are running the sales processes in Asia.

In response to a question about the leadership of former AIG CEO Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, Liddy said said Greenberg built an “awesome company,” but stayed too long.

“Anyone who runs a company for 35 years may have stayed too long. (Greenberg) didn’t keep us contemporary in terms of risk measures.”

AIG’s responsibility to post collateral on $53.5 billion in toxic mortgage securities was recently suspended by the U.S. government.

(Editing by Keiron Henderson & Kim Coghill)

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