Logo outside the AIA tower in Hong Kong.
Logo outside the AIA tower in Hong Kong. - 
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Steve Chiotakis: AIG has announced it's sealed a deal to sell off its massive Asian life insurance division, AIA. It's one of the troubled insurer's most valuable pieces, and the British financial services company Prudential has agreed to pay more than $35 billion for it. From London, Christopher Werth reports how the sale will help AIG pay its debt to U.S. taxpayers.

Christopher Werth: The deal comes as some surprise. Investors had been expecting AIG to issue a public offering for the valuable division that could have netted the insurer up to $20 billion. But that would have taken some time.

Today's deal means AIG will hand over $16 billion back to the U.S. Treasury all at once, it's biggest payback of bailout money to date.

American taxpayers have sunk over $180 billion into the faltering insurance company. Justin Urquart-Stewart of Seven Investment Management says this has all the impressions of a forced sale.

Justin Urquart-Stewart: I can only assume that it's on the basis that the government's saying, "We control most of it, we want some of our money back please." And so therefore, what are the alternatives for being able to get Uncle Sam off your back? It's I think a lot easier just to get somebody else to just take it off your hands.

As for Prudential, the purchase of AIA transforms it into a leading player in the life insurance industry throughout the growing markets of China and the rest of Asia.

In London, I'm Christopher Werth for Marketplace.