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The Manulife Financial Corporation logo is seen at the company’s Annual General Meeting in Toronto on May 1, 2014.FRED THORNHILL/Reuters

Canada's top-performing fund manager scooped up stocks on both sides of the border when markets slumped in early February, cutting his cash holdings in half.

The $3.39-billion Manulife Dividend Income Fund picked up industrials such as Roper Technologies Inc. and Ametek Inc. and added to positions in stocks like Thermo Fisher Inc., reducing its cash position to about 10 per cent, said fund manager Conrad Dabiet.

"When the volatility hit in February, we were buying quite aggressively," Dabiet said at a panel discussion at Bloomberg's Toronto office on Wednesday. "We'd built the cash up to about 20 per cent and the markets in February really served up a nice opportunity for us to deploy a lot of that cash."

The Manulife Dividend Income Fund has a three-year cumulative return of 33 per cent, making it the top-performing fund with assets of more than $500-million with at least 75 per cent invested in Canada. Its top stock holdings include Waste Connections Inc., Pembina Pipeline Corp., Open Text Corp., Brookfield Asset Management Inc. and Bank of Nova Scotia.

Dabiet increased the fund's U.S. holdings to 20 per cent from 15 per cent and also slightly increased its Canadian holdings. He said he's looking for companies with high levels of recurring revenue, growing margins and the ability to redeploy cash flow organically or through acquisitions.

–With assistance from Shin Pei and Kyle Hart

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