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Bids to buy insurance firms to be kept secret

Bids to buy the three insurance affiliates of bankrupt Metropolitan Mortgage & Securities Inc. will be kept confidential until a purchaser is announced.

The companies, including Spokane-based Western United Life Assurance Co., Old Standard Life Insurance Co., of Idaho, and Old West Annuity and Life Insurance Co., of Arizona, were put up for sale together in late March by the insurance commissioners of the three states.

Each company is considered solvent, although the commissioners placed them into receivership last year and restructured many of the assets and business practices to more closely adhere to industry norms.

Their parent company, Metropolitan Mortgage, filed for bankruptcy protection in February 2004.

The commissioners will not disclose any information about the bids, including how many, or for that matter, if any were received, said Bill Ripple, a spokesman for Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler.

Earlier, however, Kreidler indicated that some half-dozen companies had expressed an interest in the three insurance affiliates.

Kreidler had said a goal would be to recover the equity of the firms, estimated at about $100 million.

The commissioners are scheduled to discuss the matter in person this month in Boston when the National Association of Insurance Commissioners meet.

The sale of companies is expected to increase the recovery of Metropolitan creditors, though exactly how much depends on the purchase price and how much money will be needed to satisfy insurance company debts.

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