How Analysts Rate Brighthouse Financial After Its MetLife Spin-Off

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There are many times that the investing community has dealt with an area of investing called “special situations” investing. This is when companies are undergoing a major change or have the ability to unlock value in a manner that management may feel is not fully reflected in their share price. In other cases management wants to be more laser-focused on a core business.

As of Monday, August 7, 2017, Brighthouse Financial Inc. (NASDAQ: BHF) is its own company. MetLife Inc. (NYSE: MET) completed its spin-off of Brighthouse and there are now two distinct companies for investors to choose between with very different focuses.

Brighthouse sells life insurance and annuity products in the United States. The annuity business is for variable, fixed, index-linked and income annuities, and they sell variable, universal, term life and whole life insurance products.

The Wall Street Journal and other media sites noted after Monday’s close that Brighthouse Financial’s stock was down more than 5% at one point on Monday during its first official trading session after being spun off by MetLife.

24/7 Wall St. wanted to evaluate how the Wall Street analysts were valuing Brighthouse Financial. There are some positive reports, but it appears that the analyst community is so far awaiting results before they are going to be too enamored with another annuity and life-insurance seller.

Credit Suisse started it with a Neutral rating and gave a $71 price target. Its report said:

We expect Brighthouse Financial will be a highly capital market sensitive stock that will have the highest beta in our coverage. Brighthouse will continue to build capital and will lack a meaningful component of capital return for the next few years (in our base case). The business mix (~80% Annuities, 20% Life/Run-Off) deserves a valuation discount vs. peers. We believe Brighthouse will need to demonstrate the ability to expand its 9% ROE target, which we believe will be below the company’s cost of equity capital.

In July, Brighthouse shares were trading on a “when issued” basis rather than the “regular way,” and at that time JPMorgan assigned a Neutral rating and a $78 price target. At that time the firm said:

Brighthouse’s valuation seems compelling and management initiatives to introduce new products, expand distribution, and de-risk its product offering are encouraging. However, our outlook for business trends is cautious, and we expect the company’s results to be marked by a sub-par return on equity, shrinking in-force book, and modest earnings per share growth.

Other key analyst report summaries were seen as follows:

  • Barclays started coverage as Overweight with a $72 price target.
  • Citigroup started it with a Sell rating and assigned a $50 price target.
  • FBR Capital Markets started it at Market Perform rating with a $72 target price.
  • Keefe Bruyette & Woods started it at Market Perform rating with a $65 price target.
  • RBC Capital markets started coverage with a Market Perform rating and a $77 price target.
  • Wells Fargo started it with a Market Perform rating and a $71 price target.

CNBC had an interview with MetLife CEO Steven Kandarian and Brighthouse CEO Eric Steigerwalt on the debut of trading. The company discussed what its needs would be and how its results will be tied to the stock market.

On the credit ratings side of the equation, Fitch Ratings assigned a BBB+ rating to Brighthouse and gave an Outlook Stable notation. The Fitch report said:

Brighthouse’s ratings continue to reflect the company’s very strong statutory capitalization, significant operating scale, and strong risk-management capabilities. The businesses that makeup Brighthouse represented approximately 25% of MetLife’s total assets at year-end 2016, which places Brighthouse as a top-12 U.S. life insurer. The ratings also consider Brighthouse’s above-average exposure to market-sensitive variable annuity and universal life with secondary guarantee businesses, which could have a negative impact on risk-based capitalization and earnings in an adverse market scenario.

Brighthouse opened at $62.75 on Monday and closed at $61.72 on more than 11 million shares. Its shares were down another 1.3% at $60.89 midday on Tuesday.

MetLife shares closed at $53.92 on Friday ahead of the adjusted spin-off price, and closed at $48.53 on Monday. Its shares were trading up 30 cents at $48.83 on Tuesday in the midday trading session, in a 52-week range of $39.50 to $58.09.