UPDATE 1-Manulife profit edges past Wall Street expectations

Thu Nov 7, 2013 7:12am EST

TORONTO Nov 7 (Reuters) - Manulife Financial Corp, Canada's largest life insurer, on Thursday reported a third-quarter profit that just beat analysts' expectations, driven by strong wealth and mutual fund sales and higher bond yields.

The Toronto-based company said net income attributed to shareholders was C$1.03 billion ($989.01 million), or 54 Canadian cents a share.

That compared with a year-earlier loss of C$211 million, or 13 Canadian cents a share, that included a C$1 billion charge resulting from the company's annual review of actuarial assumptions on certain insurance products.

In the latest quarter, the actuarial review charge fell to C$252 million, Manulife said, as rising bond yields allowed the company to factor in higher predicted income from its fixed-income holdings.

Stripping out certain market-related items, core profit was 36 Canadian cents a share. On that basis, analysts on average had expected a profit of 35 Canadian cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Manulife has spent the last few years working to reduce its markets exposure, after falling stock prices and bond yields led to massive quarterly losses following the 2008 financial crisis and market crash.

Wealth sales rose 34 percent to C$11.3 billion, while insurance sales rose 4 percent.

Besides its Canadian operations, Manulife owns U.S. insurer John Hancock and is growing in Asia, where it is present in about a dozen countries.

Late on Wednesday, rival Sun Life Financial Inc reported a third-quarter net loss due to charges from the sale of its U.S. annuities business, but operating profit topped estimates.

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