February 14, 2008 / 7:07 PM / in 10 years

UPDATE 2-Great-West raises dividend as profit increases

(Adds CEO, company comments, closing stock price)

TORONTO, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Quarterly profit rose 9 percent at Great-West Lifeco Inc (GWO.TO), the insurance holding companysaid on Thursday, with earnings rising in Canada and the United States but flat in Europe.

The company also said it increased its quarterly dividend by 6 percent to 29.25 Canadian cents per share.

Great-West, Canada’s second-biggest life insurer, said net income was C$537 million ($537 million), or 60 Canadian cents a share, in the three months ended Dec. 31. That compared with profit of C$491 million, or 55 Canadian cents, a year earlier.

Great-West said the strong Canadian dollar reduced reported net income by C$38 million, or about 4 Canadian cents a share.

Analysts had expected the company, which last year bought U.S. money manager Putnam Investments Trust, to earn 63 Canadian cents a share in the quarter, according to Reuters Estimates.

Great-West Chief Executive Raymond McFeetors told analysts during a conference call that the Putnam purchase won’t necessarily be the company’s last asset-management acquisition.

“We continue to look at opportunities there and on the financial services side,” he said.

Putnam’s asset management business has been included in Great-West’s financial results since Aug. 3, 2007.

Great-West, which is based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and controlled by Montreal’s Power Financial Corp (PWF.TO), said overall group premiums and deposits surged 83 percent to C$19.3 billion in the fourth quarter due to higher mutual fund deposits because of the Putnam acquisition.

However, Putnam saw outflows of US$12.5 billion in stock and bond funds in 2007, the most in the U.S. industry, according to Financial Research Corp.

Company officials told analysts on Thursday that portfolio managers at underperforming Putnam funds have been changed and that the company is using consultants to help examine its distribution channels to try to improve performance.

Great-West shares fell 29 Canadian cents to close at C$32.05 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday.

$1=$1.00 Canadian Reporting by Lynne Olver and Wojtek Dabrowski; Editing by Peter Galloway

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