Manulife, Sun Life see 1st-qtr earnings decline; Asia COVID challenges weigh

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

By Nichola Saminather

(Reuters) – Canada’s biggest life insurers, Manulife Financial and Sun Life Financial on Wednesday reported core earnings fell from a year ago as the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on their Asian earnings, with Manulife also missing estimates.

Manulife reported core earnings of C$1.5 billion ($1.15 billion), or 77 Canadian cents a share, in the three months ended March 31, down from C$1.6 billion, or 82 Canadian cents a share, a year earlier. Analysts had expected earnings to remain flat.

Underlying profit at Sun Life was C$843 million, or C$1.44 a share, in the three months ended March 31, down from C$850 million, or C$1.45, a year earlier. Analysts had expected C$1.41 a share.

Manulife attributed the decline in its profit to “the rapid and unprecedented resurgence of COVID-19 (that) disrupted new business activities in multiple markets in Asia.” Profit from the region fell 5.8%, offsetting 20% growth at home.

A 31% decline in Sun Life’s U.S. earnings, due higher health and death claims, and a 4% decrease in Asia, driven by lower sales in Hong Kong driven by COVID-19 restrictions were behind the drop in Sun Life’s profit.

Sun Life has paid more than C$1 billion COVID-related claims, Chief Financial Officer Kevin Strain, said at the company’s annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday.

Despite recent volatility in markets, both companies reported higher profits from their wealth and asset management units. Sun Life’s rose 12% from a year ago, while Manulife’s increased nearly 4%. Both saw growth in assets under management.

($1 = 1.2993 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Editing by David Gregorioin Toronto. Additional reporting by Mehnaz Yasmin in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)

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