Amsterdam Financial Services Correspondent
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Dec 28, 2011

Allstate cuts takeover benefits for executives

BOSTON, Dec 28 (Reuters) – Allstate Corp (ALL.N: Quote, Profile, Research) will
pay out less to senior executives if the company is taken over,
under a revised compensation plan the country’s largest listed
home and auto insurer filed with securities regulators on
Wednesday.

Allstate, in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange
Commission, said its old plan was terminated and the new plan
would take effect as of Dec. 30.

Dec 27, 2011

GE jumps into retail banking with MetLife deal

By Ben Berkowitz and Tanya Agrawal

(Reuters) – General Electric Co (GE.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) jumped into the retail deposits business on Tuesday, buying the online bank from life insurer MetLife Inc (MET.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) in a deal that will let GE’s capital arm expand its funding base and lessen reliance on wholesale markets.

The speed of the move took some analysts by surprise, as it has only been three weeks since GE said it wanted to start taking bank deposits from consumers.

Dec 9, 2011

Analyst questions Buffett’s choice of analysts

NEW YORK (Reuters) – It’s rare for Warren Buffett to be challenged publicly, but one analyst — tongue planted firmly in cheek — took the “Oracle of Omaha” to task on Friday for a bit of perceived financial community favoritism.

For the first time ever, Buffett has invited three analysts who cover his conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway to ask him questions at Berkshire’s festival of an annual meeting next year in Omaha.

Dec 8, 2011

Hartford sinks on 2012 fears

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Shares of Insurer Hartford Financial Services Group (HIG.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) sank on Thursday after the company warned of difficult operating conditions next year and analysts said the company’s new 2012 outlook was already at risk.

The Hartford said persistently low interest rates and the unsettled European situation, among other issues, made turnaround conditions more difficult.

Dec 6, 2011

American Express: Retailers optimistic so far

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Retailers are generally optimistic about their holiday performance so far, although shaky economic conditions could change things quickly, the chief executive officer of American Express Co said on Tuesday.

Ken Chenault, in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, said retailers were telling him the holiday had started better than they expected and that online sellers were feeling “very good” about their results.

Dec 5, 2011

MetLife expects 2012 growth, going back to Fed soon

By Ben Berkowitz

(Reuters) – MetLife expects operating earnings to rise as much as 7 percent in 2012, the largest life insurer in the United States said on Monday, though its forecasts for the fourth quarter and full-year 2011 were below expectations.

The company, whose shares rose 3.7 percent in premarket trading, also expects to go back to regulators next month with a revised plan to return capital to shareholders, after its last one was blocked.

Dec 2, 2011

Senators wade into flood insurance fray again

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Two members of the Senate have revived the debate over the federal government’s flood insurance program, with one pushing to extend the program before it expires and the other demanding faster payment on existing claims.

The National Flood Insurance Program has survived for years on a series of last-minute annual extensions. The program has an unsustainable debt load after a post-Hurricane Katrina bailout, but reform efforts have repeatedly bogged down amid differences over how to handle that debt.

Dec 2, 2011

Property insurance rates rising – Marsh

NEW YORK, Dec 2 (Reuters) – Nearly half of the U.S. property
insurance policies renewed in the current quarter have been at
higher prices, brokerage Marsh said on Friday, adding fuel to an
industry turnaround after years of declining rates.

Marsh said 48 percent of property policies renewed in the
fourth quarter have been at a rate at least 1 percent higher.
Nearly 20 percent of policies have been renewed at rate
increases of more than 10 percent.

Nov 30, 2011

MBIA shares spike after S&P affirms unit rating

NEW YORK, Nov 30 (Reuters) – Shares in bond insurer
MBIA Inc (MBI.N: Quote, Profile, Research) spiked in late trading on Wednesday
after Standard & Poor’s affirmed the investment-grade rating of
a subsidiary that insures municipal bonds, ending months of
uncertainty.

S&P said it affirmed National Public Finance Guarantee
Corp’s financial strength rating at “BBB,” with a developing
outlook.

Nov 30, 2011

Warren Buffett buys his hometown newspaper

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Billionaire investor Warren Buffett buys newspapers every day, the hometown daily included, but on Wednesday he dispensed with the single-issue price and bought the whole company instead.

Buffett’s conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway said it would buy the Omaha World-Herald Co, owner of the paper of the same name, six other dailies and a series of weekly papers in Nebraska and Iowa.

    • About Ben

      "Ben Berkowitz covers the insurance industry in New York City. He rejoined Reuters in Amsterdam in May 2009, covering the Dutch banking system and economy. He originally worked for Reuters in Los Angeles and New York from 2001 to 2006 covering everything from video games to oil. In between he was business editor at AOL, head of the editing desk at AP Business News and managing editor of Fidelity.com."
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