American International Group (AIG) debuted a new ad campaign today, “Thank You, America,” showing its gratitude to taxpayers for its $182.3 billion bailout in 2008, one of the largest in U.S. history. AIG says it paid the government back in full, handing over an extra $22.7 billion.
But investors aren’t in a thankful mood just yet. AIG is still trading at around half its book value, with a single digit return on assets, far below other insurers. That’s what counts for an insurer, its ability to return more on assets in order to cover its liabilities. AIG also has been doing stock buybacks, making its earnings per share look better by reducing the shares out there, because it can’t yet rely on its internal operations and book of business to make its EPS look better.
Ask yourself: Why didn’t anyone in the private sector step forward to save AIG four years ago? A JPMorgan Chase (JPM) worker told the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission staff in a 2010 interview that "the value of the company in its entirety was not necessarily sufficient to cover the liquidity need that the company had." Meaning, the company was worthless without tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer support and help from the Federal Reserve.
So now we have a new ad campaign that thanks “America for its support during the global financial crisis,” as well as tosses spotlights on “AIG’s recovery, commitment to the communities it serves.”
The company also notes the new ads show “how AIG helps American communities rebuild – acting as the lead insurer at the new World Trade Center, helping Joplin, Missouri, come back from a devastating tornado in 2011, and assisting the East Coast as it recovers from Hurricane Sandy.”
The ad blitz takes to the airwaves, online, and print. You’ll see them during the NFL playoff games, the NCAA Football Bowl Championship Series and The Golden Globes.
Elizabeth MacDonald joined FOX Business Network (FBN) as stocks editor in September 2007 and is the author of Skirting Heresy: The Life and Times of Margery Kempe (Franciscan Media, June 2014).
Follow Elizabeth MacDonald on Twitter @LizMacDonaldFOX.