Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn, whose call to break American International Group Inc. was rebuffed by the insurer, will probably be unable to force out Chief Executive Officer Peter Hancock, Credit Suisse Group AG said.
While Icahn may succeed in adding a new director at AIG, “we see the probability of the board being motivated to oust Hancock as pretty slim at this point, in part due to the fact that the AIG stock performance has been good thus far in his tenure,” Tom Gallagher, an analyst at the Zurich-based bank, said Wednesday in a note.
Analysts including Larry Greenberg of Janney Montgomery Scott and Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.’s Josh Stirling have released notes that value AIG’s by the sum of its parts, suggesting that AIG could create value by selling or spinning off businesses. Hancock has opposed Icahn’s demand to split the New York-based insurer into separate companies focusing on property-casualty, life and mortgage coverage. The CEO has said AIG benefits from the diversity of operations but that he’s open to asset sales as he focuses on cutting costs and narrowing the company’s focus to boost returns.
AIG shares climbed 8.7 percent since Hancock took control at the start of September 2014 through Oct. 27, the day before Icahn publicly called on the CEO to split the company. The insurer advanced more than 4 percent since then, to $63.50 at 4 p.m. in New York Wednesday.
“Most investors view this situation as a win-win,” Gallagher said. “The elevated sense of urgency by AIG is a positive.”
AIG’s stock still changes hands at about 80 percent of its book value, a measure of assets minus liabilities. Rivals including Travelers Cos. trade above that metric. Icahn believes that simplifying AIG would boost the stock to a higher multiple by helping it escape a systemically important tag from the U.S. government, which can bring tougher capital requirements and compliance costs. He didn’t immediately return a message left with an assistant Wednesday.
Hancock has said spinning off major businesses would be bad for bondholders and take away some tax advantages. AIG is weighing whether to sell or separate its mortgage insurance business, and also considering selling life units or blocks of coverage, people familiar with the matter have said. The insurer is also cutting hundreds of jobs and has announced plans to move staff to lower cost locations, like Texas and the Philippines.
(Accompanying Hancock photo provided by International Insurance Society. Hancock is shown speaking at the 2015 IIS Global Insurance Forum in New York, June 2015)