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Government Commits Another $30 Billion to AIG

Monday, 02 Mar 2009 08:13 AM

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WASHINGTON – The government on Monday unveiled a revamped rescue package to insurance giant American International Group and will provide the troubled company another $30 billion on an "as needed" basis.

The new package comes as the company has burned through cash and has been unable to find buyers for pieces of its company that it hoped to sell to repay the government on its existing aid package, which totals some $150 billion.

In an interview on NBC's "Today" show Monday morning, AIG's chairman and chief executive Edward Liddy, said: "We're going to be able to pay back the Federal Reserve. The new $30 billion is a standby line. It's not necessarily something that we think we'll have to draw on right away."

The announcement came as AIG, once the world's largest insurer, reported Monday it lost $61.7 billion in the fourth quarter, the biggest quarterly loss in U.S. corporate history.

Under the new package, the Federal Reserve will take stakes in two international units.

Instead of paying back $38 billion in cash with interest that it has used from a Federal Reserve credit line, AIG now will repay that amount with equity stakes in Asia-based American International Assurance Co. and American Life Insurance Co., which operates in 50 countries.

It marked the fourth time the government has stepped in to help AIG. Its inital lifeline came in September. The action was announced jointly early Monday by the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve.

The new package is designed to enhance the company's capital and liquidity to facilitate the "orderly completion of the company's global divestiture program," the agencies said.

They said the company continues to face "significant challenges" due to the rapid deterioration in certain financial markets in the last two months of the year. "The additional resources will help stabilize the company and in doing so help stabilize the financial system," the agencies said.

AIG is a colossus on Wall Street and financial districts worldwide, with operations in more than 130 countries and $1 trillion in assets on its balance sheet.

The government initially intervened last year to help AIG because it deemed the company too big to fail. A collapse would wreak havoc on the entire financial system and the already sticken U.S. economy.

Besides life, property and other insurance offerings, AIG provides asset-management services and airplane leases. Its myriad businesses are also linked to mutual funds, annuities and other retirement products held by millions of ordinary Americans.

But perhaps the biggest concern about AIG is the dizzying array of complex financial instruments it structured for commercial banks, investment banks and hedge funds around the globe — many of which were directly or indirectly linked to the value of U.S. mortgages.

In its earnings report, New York-based AIG said it lost $22.95 per share in the last three months of 2008. It lost $5.3 billion, or $2.08 per share, in the same quarter a year ago.

The latest results include $7.2 billion in unrealized losses and credit valuation adjustments at AIG Financial Products, the source of credit-default swaps, and pretax losses of $21.6 billion tied to the declining value of AIG's investment portfolio.

AIG's general insurance business swung to a loss on $2.8 billion in net realized capital losses. General insurance net premiums dropped 16.3 percent to $9.2 billion, and net premiums earned fell 5.9 percent to nearly $11 billion.

Adjusted to exclude certain items, operating losses totaled $37.9 billion, or $14.17 per share, versus a loss of $3.2 billion, or $1.25 per share, last year.

The results drastically fell short of estimates. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters, on average, forecast a loss estimate of 37 cents per share on revenue of $24.82 billion. Analysts have been dropping coverage of AIG in recent weeks due to the uncertainty of AIG's future.

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