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Athene prez says IPO benefiting from 'lucky' timing as stock jumps on first day

Athene Holding Ltd. surged about 10% above its initial offering price of $40 per share in its first hours as publicly traded company, a potential sign of investor confidence in a life insurance sector that has been battered for most of 2016 by near-record-low interest rates.

Athene, a life insurer focused on annuities and other retirement savings products formerly owned by Apollo Global Management LLC, raised about $1.1 billion for its selling shareholders in the IPO, which priced on Dec. 8.

In an interview with S&P Global Market Intelligence that morning, Athene President William Wheeler said demand for the company's stock was bolstered by macroeconomic trends and the broad upswing in markets following the presidential election.

"I don't think we thought we'd see this kind of a rally at year-end, and so we feel lucky," Wheeler said. "The real factor is higher interest rates. That helps us — that helps life insurers in general."

The company had expected interest rates to rise at some point from their historic lows in mid-to-late 2016, he noted, and Athene caught the right timing in doing the IPO in December. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note has soared since the presidential election on Nov. 9. The bond's interest rate had fallen to lows of around 1.36% in July, but has risen to about 2.4% in recent days.

Athene was up 9.66% to $43.87 per share as of 12:18 p.m. ET.