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MetLife Exiting Reverse Mortgage Business, Selling Portfolio To Nationstar

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES MetLife Inc. (MET) said Thursday it is selling its reverse mortgage business, its latest move to avoid increased regulatory scrutiny and stay focused on its core operations. The U.S.'s largest life insurer in March failed "stress tests" by the Federal Reserve that were aimed at gauging the capital adequacy of 19 of the biggest U.S. financial firms under a severe economic worsening. MetLife, which has been a bank-holding-company since it pushed into banking in 2001 to offer retail savings and other products to its clients, was the only insurer tested. With a reverse mortgage, a lender takes an equity stake in an owner's home in exchange for the loan. Unlike traditional mortgages, under which lenders see a payment on a monthly basis, lenders in reverse mortgages typically don't realize any proceeds from the loan until the property is sold--often when the homeowner dies. Under the deal disclosed Thursday, MetLife said home loan servicer Nationstar Mortgage LLC will purchase its reverse mortgage servicing portfolio, subject to regulatory approval. The company noted its entire retail banking business, including mortgages, made up under 2% of its operating earnings last year. The sale comes after the insurer earlier this year said it would stop originating forward residential mortgages. MetLife is also currently seeking approval of the sale of $7.5 billion in bank deposits and an online-banking platform to General Electric Co. (GE) as it moves to shed its bank-holding-company status. The firm last week reported it swung to a first-quarter loss on increased derivative losses, releasing the preliminary results nearly two weeks ahead of schedule after inadvertently posting some quarterly data on its website. The company pushed up its report to after Thursday's close. Like its fellow insurers, MetLife uses derivatives to hedge a number of risks, including changes in interest rates and fluctuations in foreign currencies. For the first quarter, the company booked net derivative losses of $1.98 billion compared with a year-earlier derivative loss of $315 million. Shares were recently up 35 cents to $36.32. -By Mia Lamar, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-3207;

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