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AIG plans to hold mortgage insurance unit

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bailed-out insurer American International Group plans to hold on to its mortgage insurance business even as the rest of that industry struggles with rising claims, AIG's chief executive said on Friday.

Mortgage insurers have been struggling, with losses mounting and capital ratios breaching crucial levels that could keep them from writing new business.

For example, PMI Group shares fell 59 percent on Thursday after the company warned its debt-to-capital ratio was more than twice what most states have as an upper limit.

But AIG said on Friday it was happy to hold on to United Guaranty, also known as UGC, and that newly reported delinquent loans continued to fall.

"It's enhancing whatever we do here," CEO Bob Benmosche said on a conference call with analysts. "For now we see it as a keeper."

Benmosche said AIG liked UGC because it gives the company insight into the mortgage market, which helps it evaluate its investments in mortgage-backed securities.

Though AIG is largely finished with its post-crisis asset sales, the fate of UGC had been something of a question mark, since it is not considered part of the company's core operations.

One thing AIG does not plan to do, though, is to boost UGC by buying up struggling competitors. Benmosche was asked on the conference call if he would be interested in AIG taking part in a reorganization of the mortgage insurance market.

"We don't see any need to help anyone else out," he answered.

(Reporting by Ben Berkowitz; Editing by Derek Caney)

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