Manulife, Sun Life shares hit multi-year highs on results

Thu Nov 7, 2013 2:05pm EST
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By Cameron French

TORONTO (Reuters) - Shares of Manulife Financial (MFC.TO: Quote) and Sun Life Financial, two of Canada's largest life insurers, jumped to multi-year highs on Thursday after the companies posted better-than-expected results on the back of stronger mutual fund sales and favorable market conditions.

Manulife stock jumped 3 percent and touched a 3-1/2 year high after the insurer reported a third-quarter core profit of 36 Canadian cents a share, which topped analysts' estimates by a penny a share.

"I thought it was a pretty good quarter... Sales trends, I thought, were pretty good across the board," said Tom Lewandowski, an analyst at Edward Jones.

Sun Life shares were up 2.4 percent and trading at a four-year high after the company reported late on Wednesday a profit from core continuing operations 69 Canadian cents a share, ahead of analysts' estimates of 64 Canadian cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Both companies benefited from increasing exposure to wealth management revenues as well as from ongoing efforts to de-couple their performance from unpredictable stock and bond markets following heavy losses in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

Manulife, the country's biggest insurer, posted net income of C$1.03 billion ($989.01 million), or 54 Canadian cents a share, rebounding a from a year-earlier loss of C$211 million, or 13 Canadian cents a share.

The year-before loss was due to a C$1 billion charge resulting from the company's annual actuarial review, which took into account the impact of low bond yields on the company's insurance obligations.

Strengthening markets allowed Manulife to book a much smaller C$252 million loss from this year's review.   Continued...