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Two of Canada’s biggest insurers, Manulife Financial Corp. and Sun Life Financial Inc., on Wednesday reported higher fourth-quarter earnings, helped by growth in Asian markets.

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

Canada’s biggest insurer, Manulife, reported earnings a share, excluding one-off items, of 65 cents, compared with 59 cents a year ago. Total earnings, excluding one-off items, grew by 8 per cent to $1.3-billion.

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Sun Life Financial reported earnings a share, excluding one-off items, of $1.19, compared with $1.05 a year ago and ahead of the average analyst forecast of $1.15, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. Total earnings, excluding one-off items, rose by 12 per cent to $718-million.

Sun Life said net income, before one-off items, grew by 26 per cent in Asia to $140-million. It cited sales growth in the Philippines, India and Hong Kong.

“We saw very good sales growth right across the region,” Sun Life CEO Dean Connor said in an interview. “Given that the Philippines, Hong Kong and India are three of our larger markets, to have those grow rapidly really makes an impact.”

Manulife said earnings from Asia increased by 23 per cent to $459-million during the quarter.

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