MetLife Lifts Dividend 27% as Buybacks Thwarted Amid Lew Review

Apr 22, 2014 11:08 am ET

April 22 (Bloomberg) -- MetLife Inc., the largest U.S. life insurer, raised its quarterly dividend 27 percent as Chief Executive Officer Steve Kandarian works to reward investors while holding off on share repurchases. The stock gained in New York trading.

The dividend of 35 cents is payable June 13 to shareholders of record as of May 9, the New York-based insurer said today in a statement. MetLife last year lifted the payout by 49 percent in the first increase since 2007.

Kandarian, 62, is favoring dividends as the insurer undergoes a U.S. review led by Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew to determine whether the company should be designated systemically important. Such a finding could require the insurer to hold additional capital and subject it to extra oversight from the Federal Reserve.

“We are not repurchasing shares at this time, because we want to avoid the potential need to issue equity if there is an adverse regulatory outcome,” Kandarian said in February. Dividends are preferable because “an increase typically represents a much smaller dollar commitment,” he said.

MetLife climbed 1.5 percent to $51.94 at 10:58 a.m. in New York. The stock has declined 3.7 percent this year.