Fed Gives MetLife 3-Month Extension on Capital Plans

Features Reuters

MetLife Inc received a three-month extension from the U.S. Federal Reserve on its plans to return capital to shareholders, the company said on Tuesday, potentially removing a short-term overhang on its stock.

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MetLife, which has been blocked from raising its dividend or buying back shares twice in the last eight months, said in a regulatory filing the Fed gave it an extension to Sept. 30 from June 12.

After failing a Fed stress test in March, MetLife had been on the hook to submit a new version of its capital plan by this month.

Analysts have said the company was likely to fail another stress test even with the new plan, raising fears the Fed could force it to boost its capital ratios by raising money or retaining earnings.

A Sterne Agee analyst said last week the company was "in limbo" waiting on a Fed decision.

MetLife is unique among big insurers in being regulated by the Fed because of its bank holding company charter. The company is trying to shed the charter, having struck a deal to sell its online deposit-taking operations to General Electric Co.

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Some think with the charter out of the way, MetLife could avoid further Fed stress testing, freeing it to return billions of dollars to investors.

MetLife shares rose 0.6 percent to $29.60 in light premarket trading on Tuesday. Since March 13, when it failed the last stress test, the shares are down 25 percent, against a decline of 5 percent for the sector.