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May 10, 2017

Sun Life sees bright future with help of Trump, Asia despite Q1 profit miss

Sun Life CEO: No contagion for financials from Home Capital saga

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Sun Life Financial (SLF.TO) reported a profit miss in its first-quarter on Tuesday, with pressure stemming from its U.S. arm, but CEO Dean Connor is hopeful for future growth.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s economic agenda coupled with Sun Life’s already strong growth in China could boost the fortunes of Canada’s third largest insurer, Connor told BNN in an interview.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the Donald Trump administration, Sun Life is bullish on the American economy, Connor said. 

“When we look at the U.S. we see a strong economy and I think you have to look past some of the [Trump] tweets, if I can say it that way,” he said.

While Connor is bullish on the U.S. economy, he is not counting on a windfall from Trump’s proposal to slash corporate taxes.  “We’re not counting on it, it’s not part of our eight-to-10 per cent EPS growth plan, but if and when it happens, that will be a real great benefit to us and to our shareholders.”

The company hopes to continue its momentum in other parts of the world as well, particularly in Asia where growth has been strong.  

“Asia continues to be of our four pillars, it’s the fastest-growing pillar,” Connor said, noting Sun Life has been there since 1892 and has tripled its net income in Asia over the past five years.

Analysts on average had expected earnings of 99 Canadian cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters. But underlying net income in the U.S slumped 28.4 per cent to $58 million, while the measure in its Canadian business, its biggest unit, jumped 5 per cent to $229 million, the company said.

There are issues at home, however, that have been weighing on Canadian sectors and businesses. Connor discussed some of them with BNN and commented on how they could impact his company.

CONNOR ON NAFTA

“NAFTA renegotiation wouldn’t really have a big direct impact on our business. We don’t move a lot of goods across the border – more intellectual capital and technology and so on. But it could have a second-order impact on our clients, so that is something we will be watching that closely.”

CONNOR ON HOME CAPITAL

“I think the confidence in the Canadian financial sector is very strong, not just here in Canada, but around the world. Notwithstanding Home Capital, people realize we are in a country where we’ve got big, strong financial institutions – very well capitalized,  very strong regulators and strong governance…So I don’t think the Home Capital issues, per se, will shake that to a great extent.”

CONNOR ON CANADA’S INFRASTRUCTURE BANK

“We are supporters of the Canadian infrastructure bank. We think that done the right way, this could really help Canada get more money into more projects – and in particular more equity money. We are debt investors in infrastructure. And our main message to the government is make sure in the capital structure you reserve a place for debt.”