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The sun sets over the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, June 26, 2006.
The sun sets over the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, June 26, 2006.
(Zainal Abd Halim / Reuters/Zainal Abd Halim / Reuters)

Lifecos grapple with Asia’s nascent capital markets

Half of Canada’s top companies are competing fiercely in Asia, even as economic growth in the region has softened. But operating in emerging economies means contending with underdeveloped, illiquid capital markets -- a hurdle for life insurers looking to grow abroad.

Manulife Financial Corp. and Sun Life Financial Inc. -- the country’s most widely traded lifecos -- have spent decades building up businesses in 11 and eight Asian markets respectively. But insurers are by nature long-term investors, and the lack of developed corporate or sovereign bond markets that go beyond ten-year terms makes it tough to invest to cover long-dated products.