The US Treasury has made a small profit on the sale of a portion of its shares in insurer American International Group.
It is slowly reducing its holding, which was acquired under extreme duress in late 2008, in moves to prevent the collapse of the insurance giant, which would have made the already severe financial crisis even worse.
The value of AIG’s shares has fallen by 40 percent since the beginning of the year.
The shares sold on Tuesday went for $29 apiece, just above the $28.73 average price the Treasury will need to break even on its record bailout of AIG during the financial crisis.
The $8.7 billion total sale, which included 100 million shares sold by AIG itself, was also far smaller than the $10 billion to $20 billion banking sources had spoken of, and hinted at a persistent lack of investor interest in the firm despite its apparent progress.
Treasury will remain by far the majority shareholder of AIG, but its holdings now comprise 77 percent of the total, down from 92 percent before the sale.
“We’re hopeful that we can recover all the investment that we made,” said Tim Massad, the Treasury’s acting secretary for financial stability.
AIG’s share sale is important for the US government, which is trying to sell off multiple investments it made in companies during the financial crisis.
The bailouts were highly unpopular, especially after it became known that top managers in the very same AIG division that drove the company deep into the red had continued to pay themselves big bonuses even while receiving taxpayers’ help.