Manulife beats first-quarter profit estimates on Asia unit strength

May 8 (Reuters) – Canada’s Manulife Financial Corp (MFC.TO), on Wednesday reported better than expected quarterly profit boosted by a robust performance in its Asia business and wealth management unit.

The country’s largest insurer has counted on its Asia business to boost growth amid uncertainty in other parts of the world despite challenges amid China’s slowing economy and a bumpy pandemic recovery.

Chief Financial Officer Colin Simpson noted that China, Japan, and Singapore were among the strong performers while sales in Hong Kong, a region that benefited after the reopening of the border with mainland China last year, slowed.

“Hong Kong is down but we’re also pushing on having a diversified Asian business,” he said in an interview, adding that Asia accounted for 44% of overall earnings, closer to the company’s goal of bringing half of its core earnings from Asia by 2027.

“We see fantastic potential with under-penetrated markets and also the rising middle class,” he said, highlighting opportunities in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Philippines.

Annualized premium equivalent (APE), a key sales metric, jumped 21% in the quarter, driven by a 13% rise in Manulife’s Asia unit and a 54% jump in its Canada business.

Core earnings at global wealth and asset-management business rose 25%.

Total investment income at Manulife came in at C$4.79 billion ($3.49 billion) in the quarter, compared with C$5.46 billion last year.

It posted core earnings of C$1.75 billion, or 94 Canadian cents per share, in the three months ended March 31, compared with C$1.53 billion, or 79 Canadian cents per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected Manulife to report a profit of 91 Canadian cents per share, according to LSEG data.

 

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