Business

MetLife gets closer to spinning off Charlotte-based business

The MetLife logo adorns the company’s Charlotte headquarters in Ballantyne Corporate Park.
The MetLife logo adorns the company’s Charlotte headquarters in Ballantyne Corporate Park. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

MetLife has won fresh approvals for its plans to spin off a large portion of the insurer’s Charlotte-based U.S. retail business, clearing some of the last remaining obstacles to the deal.

On Thursday, the board of the New York-based insurer approved the proposed divestiture that would form a company called Brighthouse Financial. That came after Delaware Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro also announced approval Thursday. The Delaware approval was necessary because Brighthouse’s largest insurance operation, Brighthouse Life Insurance Company, is domiciled in the state.

The planned spinoff affects Charlotte, where MetLife employs about 1,500 people in two office towers in Ballantyne Corporate Park. MetLife has said it intends to keep the separated company headquartered in Charlotte, which it picked in 2013 to consolidate its U.S. retail operations in exchange for state and local incentives.

Approval is still needed from the Securities and Exchange Commission before the spinoff can be finalized. MetLife received related approvals last week from Massachusetts’ Division of Insurance and last month from the state of New York’s Department of Financial Services.

MetLife was aiming to complete the spinoff by the end of June. But during a conference call with analysts last month, MetLife CEO Steven Kandarian said the company would not meet that time frame, citing the wait for regulatory approvals and the “complexity of the transaction.” Kandarian noted there’s no exact estimate but that his hope is the deal could be finalized “in the coming months.”

MetLife announced its plans to separate the retail business in January 2016, as the company looked to decrease its size and limit federal capital requirements. Plans call for Brighthouse and MetLife to split into two independent publicly traded companies.

In March, Brighthouse began doing business under its own name. Charlotte-based Eric Steigerwalt, currently CEO of Brighthouse, is expected to continue in that role once the spinoff is complete.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts

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