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Tickers in this Article: AFL, AIG, PRU, ALL
Are you one of those people that when you think of insurance companies, ducks come to mind? We're going to take a look at three companies of different size and focus; AFLAC (NYSE: AFL) American International Group (NYSE: AIG) and Prudential Financial (NYSE: PRU) in order to hopefully keep you afloat and insure your success.

Carry On -- Or Not
If you have a yen to invest in a insurance company, AFLAC with a market cap of $23 billion may be your ticket, complete with carry-on baggage, as AFLAC does 75% of their business in Japan. All kidding aside, in a business that has suffered from commoditization, AFLAC stands out because of their low cost structure, client retention and name recognition.

Catering to supplemental health care, AFLAC has a great opportunity in both the US and Japan as the population in both countries is rapidly aging, particularly in Japan. In addition, the health-care system in Japan is financially under stress. This could present AFL with more opportunity. In the US, AFLAC likes to focus on small businesses as the decision turn around time is much shorter than large corporations.

The potential reward and risk with AFLAC is two sides of the same coin.With 75% of their business in Japan, Yen must be eventually repatriated to US dollars.The shares of AFLAC should rise or fall relative to the exchange rate of Dollar/Yen.

The 800 Pound Gorilla
American International Group is the giant here with a market cap approaching $178 billion. AIG has come off an absolutely stellar year and from all indications will keep right on being a wealth creation machine.

AIG has a distribution network that second to none and international governmental relationships that go back years. They see their opportunity in emerging markets, which at present only account for 10% of their global premiums but conversely have the largest populations. AIG enjoys a well established brand name, particularly with foreign customers, tremendous financial strength and a reputation for being very innovative.

In the past couple of years, some of AIG's brokers have become reluctant to place their policies and their recent downgrade to AA from AAA could hurt them a little. Beyond that, the only major risk to AIG is a general world wide economic slowdown.


Betting on Boomers
Prudential Financial is coming off a difficult year.Even with a market cap of $44 billion, it is trying to integrate their acquisition of Allstate's (NYSE: ALL) variable annuity business into their system.

PRU is betting on boomers, especially those in Japan and Korea as well as the US, for the future. PRU's life insurance business in all likelihood will not be the growth engine but it will provide a certain amount of steady cash flow. Growth should come from retiring baby boomers and PRU's sales force of life planners.This is of particular interest in the US with the Pension Protection Act of 2006 and the assets of aging boomers. Management may potentially be buying back shares if circumstances permit.

PRU does face some risks: About half of the firms revenues come from equity sensitive products. In addition, competing firms in Japan and Korea have made a practice out of recruiting PRU's life planners, which probably took a long time to train and develop.

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