American International Group Inc., the insurer rescued by $180 billion of federal bailouts, on Tuesday expressed optimism it will be able to repay government loans as it tries to rebound from punishing losses tied to derivatives.
AIG held its annual meeting in a company building next door to its Wall Street headquarters. It was the first public opportunity for shareholders to vent frustration since AIG’s financial implosion last year.
A series of federal bailouts has left the U.S. government with close to an 80 percent stake in the company.
The insurer lost $99 billion last year, largely because of its exposure to credit default swaps, and has been pilloried for bonuses awarded in its financial products unit, the source of much of its losses.
Edward Liddy, installed as AIG’s chief executive by the government last September, said “there is an excellent chance that we will be able to repay the government.”
He said the financial products unit has nearly halved its derivatives exposure, to $1.4 trillion from $2.7 trillion, and by year-end “our risk will have been reduced substantially from its current status.”
Liddy plans to step down and said he was confident the board will soon name a new chairman and CEO.
Shares of AIG, once the world’s largest insurer by market value, have traded below $2 nearly all year. In morning trading they were down 22 cents at $1.11.
AIG had delayed its annual meeting, usually held in May, to give it more time to shuffle its board, which has been almost entirely reconstituted over the last year.
“They were like rats leaving a sinking ship — goodbye and good riddance,” shareholder Kenneth Steiner said at the meeting, referring to recently departed directors.
The board shuffle reflects the muscle wielded by federal authorities since taxpayers ponied up billions of dollars to keep AIG afloat.
At least seven of the new directors were recommended by either the U.S. Treasury Department or the trustees overseeing the government’s stake in the company.
To help pay back $83 billion of government loans, AIG has been trying to sell many of its businesses.
Last week it said it planned to give the Federal Reserve Bank of New York stakes in two large life insurance units and eventually spin those units off, reducing its debt to the government by about $25 billion.
Other AIG asset sales have included much of its stake in reinsurer Transatlantic Holdings Inc. and units in Mexico, Russia, Switzerland and Thailand.
On Tuesday, the company said it would sell its credit card business in Taiwan to Far Eastern International Bank.
AIG recently agreed to sell its headquarters and an adjacent building, though it still occupies both.
(Reporting by Lilla Zuill and Paritosh Bansal; Additional reporting by Juan Lagorio and Jonathan Stempel; Writing by Jonathan Stempel; editing by John Wallace)
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