February 14, 2008 / 3:36 PM / in 10 years

Manulife profit up on fees, investments

TORONTO (Reuters) - Net income at Manulife Financial Corp MFC.TO climbed 4 percent in the fourth quarter on higher fee income and strong investment performance, but the strong Canadian dollar took a bite out of its profit, the insurance company said on Thursday.

Canada’s largest life insurer said net income was $1.14 billion, or 75 cents a share, in the three months ended December 31. That compares with earnings of $1.10 billion, or 70 Canadian cents a share, a year earlier.

Analysts had expected Manulife to earn 70 cents a share, according to Reuters Estimates.

The company, which has operations in Canada, the United States, Japan and other Asian countries, said the strength of the Canadian currency reduced its earnings by $163 million in the quarter. Excluding the effects of foreign exchange, profit was 19 percent higher than a year earlier, it said.

Almost all of its businesses hit record sales levels for the quarter and the full year, Dominic D‘Alessandro, Manulife’s president and chief executive, said in a statement.

This sales momentum and the company’s strong capital position will allow it to deal with “unsettled markets,” D‘Alessandro added.

Fourth-quarter U.S. life and variable annuity sales at its John Hancock unit, as well as Canadian individual life and wealth-management sales, were particularly strong, the company said.

Annualized return on equity, a measure of profitability, was 20.5 percent in the fourth quarter, up from 18.0 percent in the same period a year earlier.

Premiums and deposits rose 10 percent to $17.4 billion.

Reporting by Lynne Olver; Editing by Peter Galloway

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