For sale by AIG: A unit called Chartis

Troubled insurer spins off its property-casualty business into new company called Chartis in an effort to pay back taxpayers.

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By David Goldman, staff writer

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NEW YORK ( -- Maybe AIU sounded too much like AIG.

Bailed out insurer AIG on Monday said it would go forward with its previously announced plan to spin off its property-casualty insurance business long known as AIU.

The name of the new company is Chartis, AIG disclosed Monday.

Chartis, though officially separated from AIG, remains 100% owned by the embattled company. Kristian Moor, a former AIG executive vice president who headed the property-casualty group, was named Chartis' chief executive officer.

According to the company, the Chartis name derives from the Greek word for map, underscoring "the franchise's disciplined-yet-flexible approach to navigating changing marketplaces and complex risks worldwide."

According to AIG (AIG, Fortune 500) spokeswoman Christina Pretto, AIG is positioning Chartis to be more independent down the road. AIG is working to assemble an independent board and, perhaps, eventually an initial public offering, she said.

AIG is expected to use the proceeds from the eventual sale to pay back some of the $83.3 billion the government has pumped into the company.

Earlier this month, AIG similarly spun off foreign life insurance companies AIA and ALICO. The Federal Reserve will take stakes in AIA and ALICO later this quarter and in exchange forgive $25 billion in loans to the company. But that still leaves AIG with more than $58 billion to pay back.

The insurer may be able to make a good chunk of that by selling Chartis.

Though AIG lost nearly $100 billion last year, the unit now known as Chartis was profitable, with an operating income of $3.3 billion worldwide, according to the new company.

Chartis is made up of the three former AIG units: commercial insurance, foreign general insurance and private client group. They pay a combined $71 million in claims every day, on average, and had $32.1 billion in cash on hand to pay claims at the end of 2008.

Still, some experts are skeptical that Chartis will succeed without the support of its parent company.

"We're talking about major companies," said Andy Barile chief executive of insurance consultancy Andrew Barile Consulting Corp. "They have all the ingredients, but the question is will they be able to execute?"

Barile said the question is whether Chartis will be able to maintain its "A" credit rating. A high credit rating keeps borrowing costs -- and premiums -- down. Chartis on its own is a mammoth company, big enough to have made the Fortune 500 if it had been an independent company. But without the ability to use AIG's other insurance businesses as a backstop, Chartis may have to battle for that credit rating.

"They're going to have to work hard at keeping their rating up now that they're standing on their own," said Barile. "You can call yourself whatever you want, but the insurance business boils down to 'what is the price of the policy?' " To top of page

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