AIG to repay taxpayers? It could be awhile

Just over a year after the federal government bailed out American International Group (AIG), a congressional study released today says it's "unclear" that the troubled insurer will be able to repay the money it received from the Fed and Treasury Department.

Likely boosting those odds, Rep. Edolphus Towns, the New York Democrat who leads the House Oversight Committee, said he wants to explore reworking the terms of the $182 billion credit line the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve have extended to AIG. That sent the company's stock soaring.

Bloomberg News reported that Towns met with former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg last week to discuss the possibility of restructuring the terms of its bailout.

As of mid-afternoon on Monday, AIG's shares had risen more than 14 percent. Its stock price has swooned in the past year, falling more than 90 percent over the past 12 months. But AIG's insurance businesses are in relatively good shape and the company turned a profit last quarter.

AIG, brought to the brink of collapse last fall by losses in a unit that specialized in credit default swaps, has seen it's financial health stabilize, according to the Government Accountability Office (PDF). But factors examined by the Government Accounting Office (GAO), Congress's investigative arm, "suggest improved financial conditions that were largely results of federal assistance."

From the economy, to the markets, to the government's willingness to keep helping AIG, there are many factors contributing to the company's prospects for a turnaround. So it's too soon to say whether it's likely the bailout funds it received can be repaid.

"The ultimate success of AIG's restructuring and repayment efforts remains uncertain," GAO investigators wrote.

CEO Robert Benmosche, who replaced Edward Liddy at AIG's helm last month, has slowed his predecessor's rush to sell valuable assets to raise money with which to repay the government. He has said in interviews that he is focusing instead on increasing the value of the assets by improving their performance.
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