MetLife (NYSE:MET) reported yesterday that its operating earnings were up 14% in the fourth quarter, from $1.4 billion to $1.6 billion, driven by improvements across its business lines. As a result of an increase in common shares outstanding, operating earnings per share at MetLife were up 10%, from $1.25 to $1.37.

The company highlighted that gains in operating earnings were up across its business segments in the fourth quarter, including 13% growth seen in the Americas, from $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion In addition, the Asia and EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) segments at MetLife had operating earnings jump from $257 million to $413 million, a gain of 60%.

While the operating revenues in the fourth quarter were flat at $18.4 billion, the growth in income stemmed largely from reduced expenses. In the fourth quarter MetLife reduced its expenses from $16.4 billion to $16.3 billion.

"We are very pleased with our results for the fourth quarter and full year," noted the CEO, president and chairman of MetLife, Steven A. Kandarian, in a statement. "We achieved an operating return on equity of 12 percent for 2013 despite a decline in leverage. We believe this demonstrates our strategy for creating long-term shareholder value is working well and leaves us better positioned for the current regulatory environment."

Net income available to MetLife shareholders was $877 million in the fourth quarter, well ahead of the $96 million seen in fourth quarter of 2012. However the fourth quarter of 2012 was met with significant losses resulting from derivatives used for the purposes of hedging risk and also other adjustments.

For the full year of 2013, operating earnings at MetLife grew by 11% from $5.7 billion to $6.3 billion, as revenues rose by roughly $1 billion from $68.4 billion to $69.3 billion. Like the fourth-quarter results, these gains were seen across business lines, but the growth in earnings per share was not as significant, standing at a 7% increase from $5.28 to $5.63.

The company highlighted, "growth on a per share basis was dampened by the increase in the number of outstanding common shares resulting from the conversion of $1.0 billion of the equity units issued in 2010 to fund the Alico acquisition."


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