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Sun Life eyes growth in China, India, U.S.

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Sun Life Financial (SLF-T), one of Canada's largest insurers, plans to expand its operations in China and India to capitalize on the insurance and investment needs of a growing middle class in the two countries, the company's chief executive said today.

Sun Life plans to expand its Chinese presence through its Everbright joint venture, which became the first foreign joint venture to be recognized as a domestic Chinese company this past summer.

“As insurance penetration is currently low in these markets, there are excellent prospects, partly driven by the strong domestic savings cultures,” Sun Life Chief Executive Don Stewart told an investor presentation in Toronto.

Everbright, which is 20-percent owned by Sun Life, currently operates in 18 cities, and Stewart said the company plans to expand into others.

Sun Life plans to continue to grow its Birla Sun Life unit in India, whose premiums and deposits have more than quadrupled to $406 million over the past four years, while its assets under management have more than tripled to $14 billion.

The company is also eyeing rapid growth at its U.S. MFS mutual fund arm, with a goal of eventually doubling the unit's assets under management to $400 billion US.

Robert Manning, head of MFS Investment Management, said the plan to raise the unit's assets to $400 billion was an “aspirational” goal that would be possible due to Sun Life's vast global reach. The insurer currently has a presence in more than a dozen countries.

“We don't have to invest much capital at all to take the firm and double its size in assets,” he said.

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