NU Online News Service, Dec. 18, 2003, 5:32 p.m. EST – Manulife Financial Corp., Toronto, must get approval from more than 160 regulators and government agencies before it can complete its proposed acquisition of John Hancock Financial Services Inc., according to a year-end message that Manulife President Dominic D’Alessandro sent to Manulife employees.[@@]

Manulife and Hancock both filed copies of the message with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

In addition to seeking approval of the deal from regulators, Manulife is preparing to send a proxy mailing to nearly 600,000 Hancock shareholders in early January 2004, D’Alessandro reports in the year-end message.

Manulife and Hancock are planning to have Hancock shareholders vote on the acquisition in late February.

John Mather, the chief information officer at Manulife, and Thomas Moloney, the chief financial officer at Hancock, are leading teams that are addressing the companies’ “organizational structures as well as administration systems and financial systems, office facilities, brands, customer service models and personnel policies,” D’Alessandro says in the year-end message.

“As you can imagine, they, and the hundreds of staff actively engaged in the process, are very busy,” D’Alessandro writes. “You will be hearing more about the integration process in the New Year.”

D’Alessandro notes that the companies are hoping that, after the acquisition, “as much of the related workforce savings as possible comes from normal attrition and increased business growth. To this end, a controlled hiring policy has been in place since the announcement.”

The companies “will treat all employees with respect and sensitivity,” D’Alessandro writes.

The year-end message is on the Web at http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1086888/000095012303013923/0000950123-03-013923-index.htm