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MetLife raises dividend for first time since 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -- Insurer MetLife Inc. said Tuesday it is raising its quarterly dividend to 27.5 cents from 18.5 cents.

The move marks the first time MetLife has raised its dividend since 2007. It comes shortly after the MetLife stopped being a bank holding company, giving it the ability to raise its dividends without getting approval from the Federal Reserve.

The dividend is payable Jun 13 to shareholders of record on May 9.

Shares of MetLife advanced $2.33, or 6.5 percent, to $38.12 in afternoon trading following the announcement.

MetLife had been a bank holding company since 2001. Because of that status, after the financial crisis the company faced tougher regulation and was subject to the Federal Reserve's "stress tests," which assess how banks would weather another serious downturn.

As a result of those tests, the Fed would not allow MetLife to increase its dividend or buy back shares.

In 2011, the company decided to change its status. In January, it sold its mortgage servicing unit and some bank deposits so it could focus on its insurance business. In February, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the board of governors of the Federal Reserve approved its change in status.