AIG's Aches and Pains Wane

While the hurricane that hit insurance company AIG (NYSE: AIG  ) has passed, the cleanup still has a ways to go. Fortunately for shareholders, it looks as though one of history's financial success stories still has room to recapture some of its tarnished legacy.

Reported results for the second quarter were quite solid. Income excluding investment gains and losses tallied about $3.3 billion, up more than 14% over last year's figure. As part of management's commentary on the quarter, CEO Martin Sullivan indicated that, while hurdles created by the company's accounting scandal and regulatory probe are still hurting business, the impact is starting to dissipate in the market.

Business looked pretty solid across the board. In general insurance, operating income was up more than 20% on a more than 4% increase in premiums written. The combined ratio improved slightly and the company's underwriting discipline continues to pay off in the face of softening pricing.

Results were also solid in the life insurance segment. Operating income rose over 13% and premiums climbed 7%. AIG's much-fabled overseas operations again were a major contributor to growth with 19% operating income growth, led in part by nearly 32% premium growth in Japan.

Financial services was weaker in the period (operating income dropped 3%), as ongoing strength in aircraft leasing was offset by the yield curve, as well as the negative impact of the company's ratings changes and ongoing investigations. In asset management, operating income climbed 10% and assets under management increased nearly 11%, sequentially.

About a week or so before this earnings report, ex-CEO Hank Greenberg stirred the pot once again. Filing a "white paper" in response to the company's restatements in the 10-K, the former chief is alleging that AIG went overboard on its restatements and, in doing so, hurt shareholders. There were also implications that AIG was taking a more conservative stance in part to justify the ouster of Greenberg.

At this point, I'm not really sure what Greenberg's objectives are. Perhaps he is attempting to position himself for defending future suits. Or perhaps he genuinely believes AIG overdid its restatements to the detriment of shareholders. In either case, it doesn't look like he's going to quietly ride off into the sunset just yet.

Either way, I don't see any easy money left in these shares. We've passed beyond the "gee, I think they're going to stay in business after all" sentiment, and the recovery is now under way. But that's not to say that there isn't room to grow. This is still a powerful and well-run insurance company with growth opportunities around the world. If current management can live up to the company's long historical performance standards, current shareholders should come out quite well over the long haul.

For more Foolish insurance takes:

Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (thatmeans he's neither long nor short the shares).


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