May 6, 2008 / 11:17 AM / in 10 years

Sun Life profit rises 7 percent in first quarter

TORONTO (Reuters) - First-quarter net profit grew 7 percent at Sun Life Financial SLF.TO, despite global credit pressures and a robust domestic currency, the insurer said on Tuesday.

Sun Life, Canada’s second-largest life insurer by market value, said it earned C$533 million ($528 million), or 93 Canadian cents a share, in the three months ended March 31.

That compares with profit of C$497 million, or 86 Canadian cents a share, in the same 2007 period.

Still, operating earnings were crimped by C$43 million, or 8 Canadian cents a share, due to a sturdy Canadian dollar relative to foreign currencies since the first quarter of 2007. Excluding the currency impact, operating earnings per share would have grown 5 percent to C$1.01, Sun Life said.

Analysts had expected the company to earn C$1.01 a share before exceptional items, according to Reuters Estimates.

Return on equity was 13.4 percent in the quarter, up from 12.0 percent a year earlier.

Canadian life insurance companies grappled with a variety of pressures in the first quarter, including a strong Canadian dollar, volatile financial markets and low interest rates.

“Difficult capital markets, global credit pressures and currency headwinds persisted during the quarter and moderated the company’s financial results,” Donald Stewart, Sun Life’s chief executive, said in a statement.

Sun Life said in February that it was committed to a 2008 target of 10 percent growth in operating earnings per share.

($1=$1.01 Canadian)

Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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