NU Online News Service, April 6, 2004, 10:40 a.m. EST – The Federal Reserve Board has approved Manulife Financial Corporation’s acquisition of John Hancock Financial Services, Inc., Boston.[@@]

Manulife, in Toronto, needed the banking agency’s approval because of Hancock’s ownership of First Signature Bank and Trust Company, Portsmouth, N.H.

Manulife, with total assets of $115.3 billion, is the holding company for the Manufacturers Life Insurance Company, which converted from mutual to stock organization in September 1999. John Hancock, in Boston, has total assets of $111.3 billion.

The combined entity would become the second largest life insurer in the U.S.

The acquisition, expected to close later this year, has been approved by shareholders of both firms but still requires approval by the Massachusetts insurance commissioner.