Metlife (MET) earned $1.1 billion in the fourth quarter, or $1.06 a share, on strong overseas business.

Earnings rose from $51 million in the year-ago period.

U.S. earnings were up 4%, but Metlife said overseas business surged 89% in the quarter, largely due to the acquisition of AIG’s (AIG) Alico unit.

For the full year 2011, the insurance provider’s net income rose 152% to $6.7 billion, or $6.29 a share, from 2010 when it earned $2.7 million, or $3 a share. For the year, analysts estimated MetLife would earn $4.91 a share.

The company reported $800 billion in assets at the end of the year, up 9% from year-end 2010. Liabilities totaled $739 billion, an increase of 8% from year-end 2010.

“MetLife had a solid year and a strong fourth quarter, even in the face of some significant market pressures,” said Metlife Chief Executive Steven A. Kandarian. “We delivered higher earnings per share over 2010. Our capital position is strong and getting stronger.”

And to ensure that remains the case, Metlife made changes in its business model.

After trying to sell its forward home loan business since October, Metlife closed the division in January because of what it thought were excessive regulations after the financial crisis.

Earlier this month, the company filed a notice that it would lay off about 800 employees at two Dallas-area locations. The next day, HomeStreet Bank announced it hired more than 160 former MetLife Home Loans employees. Caliber Funding also announced it would hire 300 former MetLife employees.

In November, MetLife announced a reorganization into three geographic regions — The Americas, EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) and Asia — to better reflect the company’s global reach. The company will report financial results under this new structure beginning with the first quarter of 2012.


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