Stock Watch – Manulife Financial continues to view Asia as a key growth area and to examine possible acquisitions in the region
Manulife Financial Corp. (TSE:MFC, Mkt cap 37.90B, P/E 11.66, Div/yield 0.13/2.54, EPS 1.75, Shares 1.85B), Canada’s largest life insurer, reported last week an increase of more than 50% in first-quarter earnings, helped by an improvement in its investment performance and a pickup in wealth management fees.
The company’s net income attributed to shareholders advanced to C$818 million, or C$0.42 per share, in the quarter to March 2014, from C$540 million, or C$0.28 per share, in the same period of 2013. Its core earnings increased by C$100 million to C$719 million in the quarter compared with January-March 2013, thank to a rise in fee income on assets under management, lower net hedging expenses and a stronger US dollar. On a per-share basis, Manulife’s core profit went up to C$0.37 per share from C$0.32 last year, missing the mean forecast for a result of C$0.39 per share among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.
Manulife saw its insurance sales slip by an annual 15% in the quarter to C$537 million, chiefly due to lower sales in Canada Group Benefits. Excluding that, insurance revenues were 4% higher than in the first quarter of 2013. Wealth sales, meanwhile, added 5% to C$13.8 billion, with strong gains in Canada and the US well offsetting drops in Asia.
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