February 28, 2009

AIG Asset Sales Could Be Financed by the US

By: Reuters

The US government may agree to finance some buyers of American International Group assets, take stakes in assets and ease terms of its aid to the troubled insurer, a person familiar with the matter said Thursday.


These are some of the options under discussion between the government, the insurer and credit rating agencies, as AIG looks to avoid a credit downgrade that would trigger a host of liquidity issues and hurt its business, the source said.

Other options include changing the terms of a $40 billion preferred stock investment and reducing or even eliminating the dividend, the source said.

The sides are also looking at lowering the interest rate on the government's credit line to AIG, and swapping debt for equity for some businesses, the source added.

AIG [AIG  0.42    -0.10  (-19.23%)   ] may also get an additional equity commitment of several billion dollars from the government, and could come as an expanded credit line, the source said.

AIG, facing the prospect of a third round of government aid and the largest quarterly loss in U.S. corporate history, is trying to sell off assets to stay afloat and help pay back part of the $150 billion it borrowed after being driven to the brink of collapse last year.

Deadlines for bids for the Asian assets, sales of which could raise tens of billions of dollars for AIG, are due on Friday, according to sources. AIG is also selling off stakes in U.S. subsidiaries.

An AIG spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The major Asian assets on the block are AIG's American Life Insurance (Alico), a unit that generates more than half of its revenues from Japan, and a 49 percent stake in Hong Kong-based life insurance group American International Assurance (AIA).

Analysts originally expected the units to fetch more than $10 billion each, but the value of the assets has likely fallen since the auction began.

With the auction in its last phase, AIG has signaled it's willing to give up control of AIA, sources said.

The AIA sale process has been hampered by weakening economic conditions and suitors dropping out, though hope of China's interest in the asset was re-kindled by an official on Thursday.

Chinese firms' potential bids would be solely a corporate decision, said Li Kemu, vice chairman of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission, suggesting Beijing would not block involvement by a Chinese firm.

Asked whether China Life or Bank of China might bid for the American insurer's assets, Li said Chinese companies were holding discussions with AIG about a possible deal.

"The discussion is still going on, and we are paying high attention to it," Li said.

State Stakes?

Also under consideration is a plan that would allow the U.S. to take stakes in AIG assets like Alico and AIA, and either spin them off or sell them later if the current auctions fail, according to one of the sources.

"The details of the plan are not yet settled and talks are fluid," the source said.

Plans to sell AIG assets across the globe were put in place last fall shortly after the U.S. government saved AIG from bankruptcy with a rescue that has since ballooned to around $150 billion.

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