* Ex-items profit 79 Can cents/share vs estimates of 80 Can cents
* Fund sales, assets rise
* Net falls due to prior year tax benefit.
TORONTO, Feb 14 (Reuters) - IGM Financial Inc, one of Canada's top mutual fund companies, said on Friday that fund sales and assets under management surged in the fourth quarter, but net profit fell as the year-before period included a favorable tax benefit.
The Winnipeg, Manitoba-based company earned C$197.1 million ($179.56 million), or 78 Canadian cents per share, in the quarter. That was down from a year-earlier profit of C$202 million, or 80 Canadian cents a share, which included a C$24.4 million favorable change in income tax provision estimates.
Shares of IGM were up 22 Canadian cents at C$55.19. The company, a division of the Montreal-based Desmarais family's Power Corp empire, operates primarily under the Investors Group and Mackenzie Investments banners.
Excluding two small items, IGM earned 79 Canadian cents a share. Analysts had expected a profit of 80 Canadian cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Mutual fund gross sales at Investors Group were C$1.69 billion in the quarter up from C$1.42 billion a year earlier. At Mackenzie, fund sales hit C$2.02 billion, up from C$1.85 billion.
Total assets under management at Dec. 31 were C$131.8 billion, up from C$120.7 billion.