The Wall Street Journal reported Friday, based on interviews with anonymous sources, that Manulife Financial Corp., which is based in Toronto, is eager to sell or spin off the company’s Boston-based John Hancock unit.

Manulife acquired John Hancock for $10.4 billion in 2004. John Hancock was a major issuers of stand-alone long-term care insurance, as well as annuity contracts that offered holders lifetime income guarantees. Low interest rates have hit long-term care insurance issuers and providers of some types of annuity benefits guarantees hard in recent years. Roy Gori, the company’s new president, said at an investor event in Hong Kong in June that he was “impatient” to shed the U.S. operations, according to the article.

A representative from Manulife said that the company does not comment on rumors or speculation.

(Related: Manulife Names Roy Gori President)

One possible sign of change at John Hancock may be the recent departure of three high-level John Hancock sales executives.

Craig Bromley, the general manager of Manulife’s U.S. division, which includes John Hancock, left in May. Trey Reynolds, a national sales vice president at John Hancock, left to become head of U.S. life distribution at AXA S.A.’s AXA Equitable in February, and Fred DeMinico recently stepped down as national accounts vice president at John Hancock to become AXA’s head of independent distribution for life insurance in the United States.

MetLife Inc. already has all of the approvals it needs to spin Brighthouse Financial Inc., its retail life and annuity unit, off as a separate company.

AXA has been talking about possibly turning its U.S. operations, including Equitable, into a separate company.

Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. recently began auctioning off its wealth unit, which includes a life insurance company and a fund management unit. The bidders for the ANZ wealth unit include AIA Group Ltd., Zurich Insurance Group A.G. and MetLife.

American International Group Inc. might go in a different direction: Brian Duperreault, AIG’s new CEO, recently said he would like to keep that company’s life and annuity operations. 

— Read Icahn Said to Ease Off Demand for AIG Breakup Under New CEO on ThinkAdvisor.