(Updates with CEO comment in third paragraph, share price in penultimate paragraph.)
May 1 (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’ve had a very nice turnaround in the U.S. and the great sales we’ve had in Asia over the past few years are showing up in earnings,” Chief Executive Officer Donald Guloien, 57, said after the firm’s annual general meeting in Toronto today. “The growth of our wealth-management business is another thing I would highlight. Every single place around the world where we do business, in wealth management we’re experiencing great growth.”
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.
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 0.8 percent to C$20.75 at 3:30 p.m. in Toronto. The shares have slid 1 percent this year, lagging behind the 2.9 percent gain of the 46-company Standard & Poor’s/TSX Financials Index.