May 13, 2009 / 6:11 PM / in 9 years

Sun Life sees new writedowns, acquisition potential

* Sees more credit impairments through 2009

* Says high capital ratios will aid growth

TORONTO, May 13 (Reuters) - Sun Life Financial Inc (SLF.TO) will likely have more credit impairment writedowns through 2009 but the insurer is still well-positioned for growth, Chief Executive Donald Stewart said on Wednesday.

Speaking to a conference in New York, Stewart said charges such as those recorded in the company’s first-quarter results last week will be seen again, though their magnitude is hard to gauge.

“We will take some pain. It’s hard to know whether the credit impairment experienced in the first quarter are a run rate but we would expect to see some degree of credit impairment in each quarter for the balance of 2009, and probably beyond that,” Stewart said.

As a result, Canada’s third-largest insurer will continue to build its reserves “a la first quarter,” he said.

Sun Life last week reported a first-quarter loss of C$213 million ($181 million), or 38 Canadian cents a share. Results were hit by reserve strengthening of C$325 million to make up for equity market declines and reserve increases of C$167 million for downgrades to the company’s investment portfolio. Credit impairments were C$34 million.

But Stewart said Sun Life is still well-positioned to make acquisitions if the right buying opportunity comes up.

“With our strong capital position we are willing and able to acquire if the right opportunity arises,” he said.

Sun Life had C$10.4 billion in cash, cash equivalents and short-term securities at the end of the first quarter, up C$5.2 billion from a year earlier. Its capital surplus ratio stood at 223 percent, well above the regulatory target of 150 percent.

$1=$1.17 Canadian Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; editing by Peter Galloway

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