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Manulife profit jumps 51% in Q1

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(Bloomberg) — Manulife Financial Corp., Canada’s largest life insurer, posted a 51 percent gain in first-quarter profit as fees collected from managing money buoyed results and insurance sales grew in Asia.

Net income climbed to C$818 million ($746 million), or 42 cents a share, from C$540 million, or 28 cents, a year earlier, the Toronto-based company said today in a statement. Profit excluding some items was 37 cents a share, matching the 37-cent average estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

“We delivered strong core earnings, most notably in Asia, net income, wealth sales, and a very healthy capital ratio,” Chief Executive Officer Donald Guloien, 57, said in the statement.

Canadian insurers including Manulife are focusing on money management and other less capital-intensive businesses as they seek to cut risks and increase fee revenue. Benefits providers are also seeking to capture the increase of expendable household income in Asia, where the middle class is set to double in the next decade.

In Canada, the money-management unit rallied to a record C$3.4 billion in revenue as demand rose for group retirement and mutual-fund products. Manulife is one of the largest providers by sales of pension management.

John Hancock

Revenue from the firm’s U.S. wealth unit rose 13 percent to $7.9 billion, fueled by the Boston-based John Hancock unit’s record sales. Total funds managed at the division are now $65.7 billion.

The Toronto-based company reported its Asian unit’s benefits product sales gained 23 percent to $258 million as Japanese revenue almost doubled. Insurance sales in Hong Kong rose 8 percent and Indonesia revenue was up 34 percent.

Wealth sales in the Asian unit declined as “volatile” stock markets hampered results, according to the statement. Fitch Ratings in January lifted Manulife’s outlook to stable from negative, citing the insurer’s efforts to limit such losses from market fluctuations.

Manulife advanced 0.7 percent to C$20.58 yesterday in Toronto. The shares have slid 1.8 percent this year, lagging behind the 3.2 percent gain of the 46-company Standard & Poor’s/TSX Financials Index over the same time period.

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