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Liberty Mutual CEO says recent life divestitures not a fire sale

Liberty Mutual Holding Co. Inc. has been selling off subsidiaries at a fast clip, but a top executive said the company may also look to bolster its presence in existing markets.

Chairman, President and CEO David Long acknowledged that there may be some concern that the insurer was undertaking a sort of fire sale after it announced a slew of international and domestic divestitures. He maintained that the deals were "proactive" on the company's part as it sought to balance its portfolio by exiting from the life business and refocusing on property and casualty.

In January, the company announced it was selling four of its subsidiaries to foreign and domestic companies; the largest was a $3.3 billion deal to sell Liberty Life Assurance Co. of Boston to Lincoln Financial Group.

"You have a bad year and all of a sudden you're selling stuff, but this is all proactive on our part," Long said. "I would anticipate that you will see minimal divestitures going forward."

Long assured analysts on the call that the company has the right short-term "footprint" in the international market. He said the company may "double down" to establish more critical mass in markets it already participates in, but it is unlikely that it would enter into new ones.

"I think I have the scale and the products to be successful in both the personal lines side and the commercial side both in the U.S. and abroad," Long said. "So we might have bombarded you with a number of announcements, but I think it might be quiet for a while."