Manulife, Sun Life profits rise, as asset management growth offsets COVID, hurricane impact

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The Sun Life Financial logo is seen at their corporate headquarters in Toronto

By Nichola Saminather

TORONTO -Canada’s two biggest life insurance companies, Manulife Financial and Sun Life Financial, reported a rise in third-quarter profits on Wednesday, driven by growth in new business and higher assets under management.

Sun Life beat analysts’ expectations, helped by a 23% surge in earnings from its asset management business that offset losses in the U.S. and Asia from COVID-related claims, but Manulife missed estimates due to weather-related charges.

While the pandemic and related claims, largely outside of Canada, have weighed on parts of insurers’ businesses, the growth in wealth, lifted by lockdown-induced savings and government stimulus has proved a boon for their wealth management units.

Core earnings at Manulife, Canada’s biggest life insurer, rose to C$1.5 billion ($1.2 billion), or 76 Canadian cents a share, in the three months ended Sept. 30, from C$1.45 billion, or 73 cents, a year earlier. Analysts had expected 79 Canadian cents.

The company took a C$152 million charge in its property and casualty reinsurance business due to estimated losses from Hurricane Ida on the U.S. Gulf Coast and floods in Europe, above about C$135 million expected by Canaccord Genuity analysts.

Manulife reported a jump in assets under management that boosted its global wealth and asset management business and helped offset lower earnings in Asia and the United States.

Underlying profit at smaller Sun Life was C$902 million, or C$1.54 a share, in the three months ended Sept. 30, from C$842 million, or C$1.44, a year earlier. Analysts had expected C$1.52 Canadian cents.

Earnings fell 19% in the United States and 12% in Asia, driven in part by COVID-19 related claims in the United States, Indonesia and the Philippines, as well as the negative impacts of foreign exchange movements. However, this was offset by a 23% increase in earnings from its asset management unit.

($1 = 1.2390 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting By Nichola Saminather; Editing by Richard Pullin)