MetLife warns 2013 earnings may be well below expected

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By Tanya Agrawal | December 14, 2012 12:35 AM EST

MetLife Inc , the largest life insurer in the United States, warned 2013 earnings may be well below what Wall Street expects and said it needed to accelerate its strategic plans, which include the sale of its banking business.

The company said it expects to earn between $5.5 billion and $5.9 billion, or $4.95 to $5.35 per share, in 2013.

Analysts expect the company to earn $5.47 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Metlife shares traded down 1.8 percent at $33 before the bell on New York Stock Exchange.

"While our operating earnings per share are expected to be lower in 2013 than in 2012, they are broadly consistent with what we predicted a year ago for an extended low interest rate environment," Chief Executive Steven Kandarian said in a statement.

The company said it expects to earn between $5.5 billion and $5.6 billion, or between $5.15 per share and $5.25 per share, in 2012.

Metlife on Wednesday won approval from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency for the sale of its deposit-taking business to a unit of General Electric Co's GE Capital.

The long-delayed approval brings MetLife one step closer to shedding its banking business and its bank holding charter.

MetLife was one of four financial institutions to fail the Federal Reserve's stress test in March.

Shares of the company, which have risen about 5 percent since the beginning of the year, closed at $33.61 on Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Rodney Joyce)

(This story was corrected to say that the company won approval for the sale of its deposit-taking business on Wednesday, not last week in the seventh paragraph)

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