updated 2/9/2006 6:00:22 PM ET 2006-02-09T23:00:22

MetLife Inc., the nation's largest life insurer, on Thursday reported higher premiums driven by its acquisition of Travelers Life & Annuity caused fourth-quarter profit to rise 33 percent.

Profit rose to $677 million, or 88 cents per share, from $511 million, or 68 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Operating earnings rose to $799 million, or $1.04 per share, from $660 million, or 88 cents per share.

The insurer reported premiums rose to $6.35 billion from $5.8 billion during the quarter. This pushed total revenue up 16 percent to $11.55 billion from $9.95 billion.

Analysts, on average, projected profit of $1.01 per share on revenue of $12.15 billion, according to Thomson Financial.

"In addition to reaching our financial targets, we completed and integrated the acquisition of Travelers Life & Annuity and substantially all of Citigroup's international insurance businesses," said Chairman and Chief Executive Robert H. Benmosche, in a statement. "With strong business fundamentals, leading market positions and a multitude of opportunities to leverage our strong brand in the marketplace, MetLife is well positioned to achieve further growth and success," Benmosche added.

MetLife acquired the Travelers unit, plus all of Citigroup's international insurance businesses, for $12.9 billion in July. That acquisition helped lift MetLife's individual business earnings by 52 percent, and pushed international earnings up 60 percent from the year-ago period.

The insurance titan said it earned total premiums, fees and other revenues of $7.8 billion during the fourth quarter, a 13 percent increase over the prior year period. Meanwhile, annuity deposits reached $3.6 billion, an increase of 39 percent from last year.

For 2005, MetLife profit of $4.65 billion, or $6.16 per share, up from $2.76 billion, or $3.65 per share, last year. The year included a $1.26 billion investment gain. Operating earnings rose to $3.27 billion, or $4.33 per share, from $2.64 billion, or $3.50 per share.

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