Now that American International Group (NYSE: AIG ) has shed its last vestiges of governmental-ownership and cleaned up its books, it's time for the insurance giant to focus on new priorities. One of management's biggest goals highlighted in their earnings conference call last week was the push to expand internationally -- it is the company's middle name after all.
With some moves already under way, the insurer has plans set in motion that may create new revenue generation, more strategic alliances, and more shareholder value. Here's how AIG plans to make it work, tips from other internationally minded companies, and why you should care about global expansion.
Best laid plans: Asia edition
Back in December, we reported the news that AIG was divesting itself of its remaining AIA Group shares, while beginning a new relationship with the Chinese PICC Group. Based on AIG's fourth-quarter financial results, the sale of AIA shares generated $2.5 billion in deployable capital and its initial $500 million investment in PICC resulted in a $57 million gain already. While the initial collaboration with PICC revolved around expanding its property and casualty exposure in China, the success of the venture has spurned additional opportunities.
Currently working with PICC's life insurance group, AIG is in the process of negotiating a definitive agreement for a joint venture to distribute life insurance and other products. The company is also working with PICC in the development of additional products, and expects that its work with the Chinese company will provide growth in its accident and health segment.
By targeting large cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin, AIG will be able to use PICC's current reputation to build its own. With a country that has an expanding middle class, this is a great opportunity for AIG to tap into a developing market that has needs for insurance products not previously available to them.
Elsewhere in the world
Outside of Asia, AIG has completed an agreement with HSBC (NYSE: HSBC ) that makes it the exclusive provider of non-life insurance products in Turkey and France. Turkey is a country that AIG has specifically targeted for its growth of accident and health segment-expansion in that country could provide AIG with the boost it needs to generate greater profits from its tertiary product lines (outside of P&C and life and retirement products).
AIG has also bought out its partner's 50% stake in AIG Israel, which has a strong brand recognition in that country focused on direct marketing initiatives. AIG has recently had added success with direct marketing in the U.S., representing 15% of the company's consumer business.
Make sure your ducks are in a row before going abroad
Around the same time that AIG was doing its AIA-PICC switcheroo, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) was saying "sayonara" to some of its joint ventures in China and Japan. But unlike AIG, the bank is still dealing with a lot of legacy issues from the financial crisis and hasn't gotten everything back in order, so it makes sense for the company to cut out non-essential business segments in order to focus on the core business at hand. The bank has formed a global advisory board, however, featuring 13 members from diverse backgrounds -- most likely in a play to stay informed of where the best opportunities lie for future expansion.
Birds of a feather...
JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) reported an 80% increase in international brokerage account balances. While the majority of that increase was due to a big push in European countries, JPM is setting its sights on Asia. The bank has already expanded its mobile capabilities to the Asia Pacific region and injected $400 million into its Chinese operations to increase branches and facilitate more lending in the country.
Citigroup (NYSE: C ) reported that revenue from its Asian segment was flat year over year in its fourth-quarter results, but that pressure on interest rate margins negated the positive increase seen in volume. If the improvement in Citi's European-Middle Eastern-African division is any indication of growth AIG could experience with its HSBC agreement, investors should be pleased: Citi reported an 11% revenue increase during the fourth quarter when compared to the same time period in 2011.
AIG has proved that it's moved beyond that shadow cast on it by the financial crisis. Management has clear goals on how to move forward and has proven that they can achieve goals ahead of schedule -- it's no wonder the company has become Wall Street's hedge fund darling. Though the company has had to focus on other more important priorities for the past few years, revenue growth is now back to the top of the list, and international expansion is a sure way to make investors happy with its progress.
By still trading below its book value, the insurance giant still gives investors a real opportunity to get in early before Mr. Market realizes his mistake and reprices the stock. But after bringing the financial world to its knees, most investors are still wary about owning a stake in AIG today. To help you figure out if you can move beyond the damage to AIG's reputation from its participation in the financial crisis, our top financial analysts have created a premium report with both reasons to buy and reasons to sell AIG, and what areas AIG investors need to watch going forward. Just click here now for instant access.