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Sandler O'Neill: New CEO may bring execution risk to MetLife

Sandler O'Neill + Partners analyst John Barnidge believes that the entry of Michel Khalaf as MetLife Inc.'s new CEO brings with it the increased possibility of execution risk.

In a note to clients, Barnidge downgraded his call on the insurer to "hold" from "buy." However, he also maintained his $50 price target, and 2019 and 2020 EPS estimates of $5.40 and $5.95, respectively.

Barnidge noted that Khalaf replaces a "long-time, well-known" executive and said a recent response to questions about MetLife's sub-scale presence in Turkey increases the possibility of charges.

Additionally, Barnidge said the presence of a new chief executive, coupled with more talk about building up a sizable asset management operation over the last few years, heightens the possibility of an acquisition that investors would not want to take place.