MetLife posts higher profit in first quarter

New York-based MetLife reported first quarter profit of $1.3 billion, an increase of 36 percent from a year ago, but earnings were weighed down in part by a $60 million accord with New York authorities.

The largest life insurer in the U.S., whose U.S. retail hub is in Charlotte, said total operating revenues grew 1 percent, to $17 billion, as premium and fee revenue and net investment income were all up. Per share, profit rose 31 percent to $1.14 a share from 87 cents.

Earnings were impacted by several items.

Authorities in New York fined MetLife $60 million in March to settle claims that two subsidiaries solicited insurance business in that state without a license and then misled the New York State Department of Financial Services about the activities. On Wednesday, MetLife said the settlement reduced its operating earnings by $57 million, or 5 cents a share.

MetLife also said its latest quarterly results included an investment loss of $343 million from the previously announced sale of its U.K. pension risk transfer business.

Also in the quarter, the company posted a $223 million in net derivative gains. MetLife, like other insurers, uses derivatives to hedge risks, such as fluctuations in interest rates.

Last month, MetLife held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its retail hub in Ballantyne Corporate Park. MetLife began hiring for the hub last year, and its plans are to create 1,300 jobs there for an average salary of $58,000.

Operating earnings in its Americas retail segment fell 2 percent to $612 million in the quarter from a year ago, primarily because of lower underwriting results, the company said.