Canada's Manulife beats profit estimates on Asia growth

(Reuters) - Manulife Financial Corp, Canada’s biggest insurer, beat quarterly profit estimates on Wednesday, boosted by growth in Asia, its biggest market.

Asia has become a hotbed for Canadian insurers who have been looking to sell cheaper insurance policies to the region’s growing middle class.

Manulife, the first of the major Canadian insurers to report quarterly results, said annualized premium equivalent (APE) sales in the first quarter rose 62 percent in Japan, driven by sales of the company’s corporate-owned life insurance product ahead of a potential change in tax regulations.

The company’s total APE sales rose 25 percent to C$1.74 billion. Asia APE sales jumped nearly 36 percent to C$1.34 billion.

The company’s core earnings rose 18.8 percent to C$1.55 billion ($1.15 billion), or 76 Canadian cents per share, in the quarter ended March 31.

Analysts on average had expected a profit of 70 Canadian cents per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Reporting By Aparajita Saxena and Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel