Manulife profit doubles, but misses estimates

Thu Feb 10, 2011 6:28pm EST
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By Cameron French

TORONTO (Reuters) - Manulife Financial Corp's fourth-quarter profit more than doubled from a year earlier and rebounded from a steep third-quarter loss, lifted by strong stock markets and bond yields.

However, the insurer's shares dove more than 5 percent after the results were reported on Thursday, giving back some of their recent torrid gains as the profit fell short of analyst estimates.

Manulife, North America's largest life insurer, earned a record C$1.8 billion ($1.8 billion), or C$1.00 a share, in the three months ended December 31, topping its year-before profit of C$868 million, or 51 Canadian cents a share.

The results marked a sharp rebound from combined losses of C$3.3 billion in the second and third quarters, as strong stock markets and rising bond prices in the fourth quarter increased the projected returns from the insurer's massive equity and bond portfolios.

However, the per-share profit of C$1.00, missed analyst estimates of C$1.08, triggering a selloff among shares that have risen 32 percent since the end of November.

"There was a significant run-up in anticipation of these earnings," said Craig Fehr, an analyst at Edward Jones in St. Louis, Missouri.

Excluding the markets impact, as well as other items, adjusted profit was C$692 million, missing the company's own forecast range of C$700 million to C$800 million.

For the full year, the insurer lost C$391 million.   Continued...