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Posted on 05 May 09

During the last two weeks in the “Daily NewsFlash”, we reported that less than two months after changing its name, the biggest and best-known unit of American International Group (AIG) is preparing to do so again, in the latest development for one of the world’s most famous brands.

In early March, AIG changed the name of the worldwide holding company for its property and casualty unit to American International Underwriters (AIU). No sooner did the ink dry on new business cards, promotional materials, specifically in Asia, AIG is reconsidering whether the AIU name represents enough of a change, and according to Leslie J. Mouat, AIU’s regional president for Southeast Asia, it’s in the final stages of choosing a new one.

“The advice we’ve received is AIU may be a bit close to AIG — we don’t want to appear as the same leopard with different spots,” Mr. Mouat said in an interview with the New York Times, although at the time of the interview a formal name change announcement had not been issued.

According to the Times, a small committee of company executives has narrowed down a list of potential names to two or three. The committee is researching how those names will be received in the 130 countries and jurisdictions in which AIU does business. It is trying to figure out the legal issues involved in a name change as well as how consumers might receive the new name. Mr. Mouat added that he was not on the committee and did not know if the new name would even include “American.”

In a separate Reuters interview, AIG CEO Edward Liddy said AIG’s property/casualty division is moving swiftly to break ties with its parent company, setting itself up to be a stand-alone company, but that the name the spun-off company will go by is still in question.

AIG is spinning off this business -- which includes its U.S. commercial insurance business and international foreign general division -- with a view to eventually floating the company in a public offering.

"AIU Holdings, or whatever name it finally becomes, will live to fight another day," said Liddy in an interview with Reuters. He said an initial public offering of at least part of the company could be staged as soon as the first or second quarter of 2010.

Talk of Hartford Selling Its P/C Op

We also reported that Hartford Financial Services is looking into a break-up of the 199-year old company. Sources reported that Hartford is seeking bids for its property/casualty insurance operations, although no confirmation for this has been provided. Published reports indicated Hartford is seeking bids from Travelers and other companies for its property/casualty unit.

Hartford reported a loss of $1.2 billion last Thursday, April 30, and in the same announcement stated it’s exploring "restructuring, discontinuation or disposition of various business lines." The following day on May 1, Hartford announced that it was closing most of its operations in Britain, Ireland and Germany as part of a pullback from Europe.

We’ll continue to keep you abreast as these two insurance industry titans face challenges and changes.