NU Online News Service, March 12, 12:49 p.m. EST
Hedge fund titan John Paulson tried on Friday to enlist securities analysts in his effort to force Hartford Insurance Group to separate its property and casualty businesses from the lesser-performing life businesses.
In talks with analysts and in a securities filing with the SEC, Paulson said the Hartford was a “dominant commercial [property and casualty] franchise.”
In his conference call with analysts and in his SEC filing, Paulson said the Hartford P&C operation “served high-margin small businesses,” that it had a strong consumer affinity business through its relationship with AARP, and that it had strong management led by CEO Doug Elliot.
But, Paulson said, all of that is “buried within Hartford Financial Services.”
Paulson’s Paulson & Co. owns 8 percent of the Hartford.
He said on the conference call that there is “no excuse” for the Hartford CEO Liam McGee for waiting to execute the breakup.
He said the Hartford should announce its intention to split the two main businesses in a transaction that may take a year and a half to complete.
He said while only three of 19 P&C analysts coverHartford, 18 cover Travelers, 18 cover Chubb and 17 cover ACE.
He said theHartfordis viewed as a life company, and is covered by life analysts.
Paulson unveiled his campaign in February, when he proposed that McGee should consider a split to boost the stock.
According to Keefe, Bruyette and Woods, the Hartford is the third-worst performer in its 24-stock insurance index.
The Hartford has struggled to recover from the 2008 downturn, which forced it to take federal funds through the Troubled Asset Relief Program. McGee repaid the government funds in March 2010.
The Hartford responded by issuing the same statement that it issued Feb. 14, when Paulson first unveiled his push for a split.
The statement says, "We recognize there are potential benefits to a separation of the P&C and life companies, including those outlined by Paulson & Co. Inc.”
The statement adds, “While there are challenges to successfully executing a separation, we welcome Paulson's views and look forward to continued dialogue with him and other shareholders. We are evaluating the company's strategy and business portfolio with the goal of delivering shareholder value. We remain objective and pragmatic about the best ways to achieve this goal."