Manulife, Sun Life post net earnings gains as markets stabilize

Thu Aug 8, 2013 2:22pm EDT
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By Cameron French

TORONTO (Reuters) - Manulife Financial Corp (MFC.TO: Quote) shares slid on Thursday, while rival Sun Life Financial Inc (SLF.TO: Quote) rose after mixed results that reflected more stable markets and showed the fruits of their recent attempts to remove risk from their balance sheets.

The two companies, Canada's No. 1 and No. 3 life insurers, have spent the last several quarters reducing their exposure to stock and bond markets, after falling stock prices and bond yields led to heavy losses following the 2008 financial crisis.

That reduced exposure, combined with rising debt yields, has pushed the shares of both companies up sharply.

Manulife posted a second-quarter profit compared with a year-before loss. It took a C$242 million ($233.48 million) markets-related charge, well down from the C$996 million charge in the year-ago period.

"Net income was not as strong as we would have liked, but (we had) a strong quarter on core earnings," Manulife Chief Financial Officer Steve Roder told Reuters.

Core profit, which excludes the impact of financial market movements, rose 1.7 percent to C$609 million, or 31 Canadian cents per share, just short of analysts' estimates of 34 Canadian cents a share.

Sun Life got a C$62 million positive bump from markets, compared with the C$320 million earnings hit it took year ago.

Its core profit from continuing operations was C$431 million, or 71 Canadian cents a share, up 72 percent from the previous year and above expectations of 67 Canadian cents a share.   Continued...