UPDATE 2-Canada's Manulife seeks new Asia deals to boost growth

Thu May 5, 2016 9:53am EDT
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* Core earnings up by 14 percent in first quarter

* Asian sales up 14 percent to C$954 million

* DBS bancassurance deal helps drive growth

* Insurer eyes further partnerships in region (Adds comments from CFO interview)

By Matt Scuffham

May 5 (Reuters) - Manulife, Canada's biggest life insurer, said it would continue to look for new partners in Asia after strong sales in the region helped it increase its core earnings by 14 percent in the first quarter.

The activation of a bancassurance partnership with DBS in Singapore and Hong Kong helped Manulife's Asian unit push total insurance sales up by 14 percent to C$954 million, more than making up for another quarter of lackluster investment gains.

"We're experiencing very strong growth in many Asian markets. That was partly driven by our new bancassurance distribution agreement with DBS. We've done a number of smaller deals as well and we will continue to look for suitable partners in that way," said Chief Financial Officer Steve Roder.

Manulife agreed to pay $1.2 billion to Singapore's DBS Group Holdings last April for a 15-year partnership that will let the insurer sell products through the lender's Asian branch network in what is known as the "bancassurance" model.   Continued...