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RBC selling U.S. life insurance unit

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Royal Bank of Canada (RY-T) is selling its U.S. life insurance business for $628.1 million US, a move that will result in an accounting loss of about $115 million for Canada's largest bank.

Athene Holding Ltd. will buy Liberty Life Insurance Company, RBC's U.S. life insurer, in a deal that's expected to close in early 2011.

RBC expects the sale will create a loss of about $115 million under Canadian accounting rules, and about $405 million under U.S. rules. The variation stems from differences in the ways the two countries accounting systems deal with the value of actuarial liabilities.

Once the deal closes, Liberty Life will reinsure its life and health insurance businesses to Birmingham, Ala.-based Protective Life Insurance Company, and a portion of its annuities to Athene Life Re Ltd., a Bermuda based subsidiary of Athene Holding.

The business had been making only a slight contribution to RBC's earnings, and the impact of this deal on the bank's profits and capital levels is immaterial, said Mario Mendonca, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity.

The bank bought the business for $890 million Cdn a decade ago, and is selling it because the industry is too competitive and RBC does not want to make the investments that would be necessary for the relatively small life insurer to compete.

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