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The Price Isn't Right: AIG Asset Sales Hit Snags

By all accounts, plans to sell the assets of crippled insurance giant American International Group aren't going well.

Recent events indicate buyers are still offering less than AIG thinks its pieces are worth. AIG's Taiwan-based Nan Shan Life unit got four bids, all of which were less than the $2 billion the insurer wanted, reports The Wall Street Journal. Each bid was less than $1.5 billion, "throwing the sale into doubt," said one news service.

AIG's entire Asian life insurance unit is also up for sale. Analysts hoped for good things since the Asian market hasn't been tainted by the Congressional hearings and free-flowing outrage that has damaged AIG's reputation and client base in this country.

When former MetLife CEO Robert Benmosche took over as AIG CEO, expectations were that his former company would buy this unit for at least $15 billion. With the recent low bids for the Taiwan insurer, based on pension withdrawals and the poor performance of variable annuities, it's beginning to look like an unrequited affair. For obvious conflict-of-interest reasons, AIG has said that Benmosche wouldn't have a role if the transaction took place.

The Journal also reports that the head of AIG Inc.'s giant aircraft-leasing business is in talks to buy a piece of the unit "amid growing frustration at AIG's delay in selling the company." Steven Udvar-Hazy, chairman and CEO of International Lease Finance Corp., is supposedly in "early discussions" to purchase about $2 billion of AIG's aircraft portfolio to start a rival business.

But wait a minute. Why is AIG desperate to let someone who intimately knows its operations start a "rival" business, and give him a helping hand? This doesn't sound like something former CEO Hank Greenberg would approve.

So for now it looks like AIG will put its merchandise back on the shelf and wait for better days to sell. And, if you listen closely, that's just what Benmosche has been saying.

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