Sun Life third-quarter profit beats expectations but warns of COVID-19 risks

FILE PHOTO: The Sun Life Financial logo is seen at their corporate headquarters of One York Street in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

TORONTO (Reuters) - Sun Life Financial Inc SLF.TO, Canada's second-biggest life insurer, beat analyst estimates for third-quarter core earnings on Wednesday, boosted by new business gains in Asia and growth in income from its asset management unit.

The company revealed more than C$140 million ($107 million) in COVID-19 claims this year, in its first such disclosure, and warned about challenges in predicting the potential impact of the pandemic on its future financial results.

Sun Life’s underlying profit in three months ended Sept. 30, excluding charges, rose 4.1% from a year ago to C$842 million ($641 million), or C$1.44 a share, compared with analysts’ estimates of C$1.28 per share.

Underlying earnings in Asia rose 19% from a year earlier, thanks to new business in some markets and higher sales of wealth management products.

Chief Executive Dean Connor said in September that Sun Life was seeking acquisitions in Asia to build scale in its existing markets.

The firm, which has C$1.2 trillion in assets under management, posted a 17% increase in profit from its asset management unit. Last month, it agreed to buy a majority stake in alternative credit investment manager Crescent Capital Group.

Sun Life’s reported net income rose 10.1% to C$750 million.

The insurer's shares closed up 0.1% at C$54.96 before it reported results, compared with a 0.4% gain in the Toronto stock benchmark .GSPTSE.

Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Editing by Tom Brown