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Canada’s biggest insurer Manulife Financial Corp. on Wednesday posted third-quarter profit that surpassed market expectations, helped by a strong performance from its Asian business and cost savings.

Manulife said earnings per share, excluding one-off items, were $0.75 in the third quarter, compared with $0.53 a year ago. Analysts on average, expected earnings of $0.67 per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Excluding items, the company said it earned $1.54-billion, up from $1.09-billion a year ago.

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Chief financial officer Phil Witherington said in a statement that the company benefited from a 29-per-cent increase in new business in Asia, positive net flows in its wealth and asset management businesses and cost efficiencies.

Core earnings from the insurer’s Asia business rose to $457-million from $374-million a year ago.

Canadian insurance companies have been expanding rapidly in Asia, selling products to the region’s growing middle class. The strategy is helping them drive growth and diversify from their domestic markets, where competition is intense.

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