UPDATE 2-Manulife Financial profit jumps on investments, wealth fees

Thu May 1, 2014 10:18am EDT
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(Adds CFO, analyst comments)

By Cameron French

TORONTO May 1 (Reuters) - Manulife Financial Corp said on Thursday its first-quarter profit surged more than 50 percent as a stronger investment performance and higher wealth management fees more than offset weaker insurance sales.

Manulife, Canada's biggest life insurer, said net income attributed to shareholders was C$818 million ($745.36 million), or 42 Canadian cents per share, compared with C$540 million, or 28 Canadian cents a share, a year earlier.

Core profit, which excludes one-time items and market-related gains and losses, rose to 37 Canadian cents a share from 32 Canadian cents. Analysts' average estimate was 39 Canadian cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

"It was pretty much an in-line quarter," said Peter Routledge, an analyst at National Bank Financial.

"We like their momentum in wealth management, particularly in North America (and) they have just very, very high capital. And we think that will persist," he said.

Insurance sales in the quarter fell 15 percent to C$537 million. Wealth sales climbed 5 percent to C$13.8 billion, Manulife said, with gains in Canada and the United States well exceeding declines in Asia.

Besides its Canadian operations, Manulife owns U.S. insurer John Hancock and is growing in Asia, where it has a presence in about a dozen countries.   Continued...