By Suzanne Barlyn and Aparajita Saxena
(Reuters) – American International Group Inc’s <AIG.N> new chief executive Brian Duperreault said on Wednesday the company would likely slow the pace of share buybacks and instead spend on acquisitions.
“I’d love to find great additions to the company. I think the important thing is that we look at companies that can make us better,” Duperreault told reporters in an interview after the company’s annual general meeting in New York.
To meet the objective, AIG would slow the pace and frequency of share buybacks, which have been part of the company’s two-year turnaround plan launched last year by former CEO Peter Hancock. AIG’s goals under the plan have included returning $25 billion of capital to investors by year-end.
AIG, which has been the target of activist investors led by billionaire Carl Icahn, has returned $18.1 billion to shareholders through buybacks since announcing the plan.
“The likelihood we can continue the pace of share buybacks is low because there are other things I can use the money on,” Duperreault said. “My job is to figure out what’s the best use of the capital and I want a balance,” Duperreault said.
AIG named Duperreault, 70, as its CEO in May, selecting a protege of former CEO Hank Greenberg and an industry veteran known for his turnaround expertise.
The company’s shareholders on Wednesday approved 2016 compensation for executives, including former CEO Hancock, who said on March 9 that he would depart once the board found a replacement, citing a lack of confidence among directors and investors.
Shareholders voted to award Hancock a total compensation of $9.58 million, including a $1.6 million base salary, longer-term incentive pay in stock worth more than $7.8 million and additional funds.
Hancock was not awarded a cash bonus for his work last year, after the company’s dismal financial performance roiled shareholders.
AIG, the largest U.S. underwriter of commercial property and casualty policies, reported a better-than-expected first-quarter operating profit in May, helped by investment returns and cost cuts.
Duperreault plans to look for acquisitions and business opportunities that would boost AIG’s underwriting strengths and revenues, he said.
While some of AIG’s businesses have potential to increase, there is less chance of growth in AIG’s commercial business, Duperreault said.
The so-called “middle market,” or medium-sized companies, could provide some opportunities, Duperreault said.
(Reporting by Suzanne Barlyn in New York and Aparajita Saxena in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta, Bernard Orr and Meredith Mazzilli)