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Manulife Financial Corp. (MFC-T) reported first-quarter profits of $1.2 billion Thursday, and announced that it has found a new chief financial officer.
The insurer's earnings, which got a lift from strong stock markets and higher sales, compare to a profit of $985 million in the same period last year, and a loss of $69 million in the prior quarter.
Manulife's profits amounted to 66 cents per share, up from 54 cents per a year earlier. After accounting for one-time items, analysts said that the company's "core" earnings came in roughly in line with their expectations. RBC Capital Markets analyst Andre-Philippe Hardy said that excluding certain gains and changes in assumptions, and using a normal tax rate, the company's profits were 34 cents per share.
The company said that it has recruited Steve Roder as its new CFO. Roder was the CFO at AIA Group Ltd., a large Asian life insurer that Manulife has previously tried to buy, from 2007 to 2010. Before that he led KPMG's financial services practice in Asia.
Manulife's current CFO, Michael Bell, is leaving to be with his family in the U.S. He had been commuting between Toronto and Philadelphia.
The decision to choose a CFO with Asian experience comes as Manulife CEO Don Guloien is increasingly making that region the company's priority, in the search for future growth. The board has also been adding directors with experience in Asia.
The company said Thursday that its insurance sales in Asia rose 26 percent this quarter, marking a record. Canadian insurance sales were also very strong, while the U.S. saw a decline.
Lower mutual fund sales in Canada and the U.S. hurt the company's wealth management business compared to a year ago. But gains in Manulife's own investment portfolio were a big contributor to its profits, as its fixed-income trading business posted gains while its real estate, private equity and infrastructure holdings saw their value increase.
The lift in stock markets during the first three months of this year also added significantly to the company's profits, but much of that was offset by the negative impact of interest rates.
And Manulife warned of expected charges in the future, including a hit of between $700 million and $800 million next quarter due to updating interest rate assumptions