In what came as a mild surprise to the financial and structured settlement professions, it was announced earlier today that Hartford Financial would be closing down it's life and annuity divisions and putting them into "run off" status pending a possible sale.
The stated objective of this move was to address the companies lagging stock price, which has been trading at 50% of book value, and is down 15% over the last year. The firms largest single shareholder, John Paulson whose hedge fund is reported to own 8.5% of the Hartford Financial Services Group, (HIG) had in a analyst phone call last month made it clear that management needed to do something to boost the value of the stock. Today that "something" became apparent as The Hartford will now concentrate on it's property casualty business, as well as it's group pension division, and cut ties with it's life and annuity markets.
In this special report, Mark Wahlstrom, the President of Wahlstrom & Associates and a leading commentator on structured settlements and annuity products, looks at some of the key questions surrounding this announcement. Such as:
- The immediate impact of the S&P ratings of Hartford Life and Annuity being dropped to BBB+ in the wake of the announcement.
- What concerns if any should policyholders of Hartford annuity contracts have as this enters run off status.
- What brought about the demise of this line of business for Hartford? Was it the on going drag of overly generous variable annuity policy provisions agreed to during robust equity markets?
- Is this an indication of problems among annuity companies or an isolated situation specific to The Hartford.