Sun Life Financial Inc. posted a first-quarter profit down slightly from a year earlier, but Canadian insurance and wealth sales grew by double digits.
The Toronto-based insurer's profit on continuing operations, which stripped out the sale of the company's U.S. annuity business, was $400-million or 65 cents a share, compared with $410-million or 68 cents in the same period last year.
Sun Life's operating profit from continuing operations, which measures results without some accounting adjustments and other considerations, rose to $454-million from $448-million at the same point in 2013. This amounted to 74 cents a share in the quarter, down from 75 cents. This beat analysts estimates for 66 cents.
Dean Connor, chief executive officer of Sun Life, said the "double-digit growth in insurance and wealth sales and record levels of assets under management" were a result of both the company's investments and organic growth.
Assets under management reached a record $671-billion at the end of the quarter, up from about $640-billion at the end of the last quarter.
Mr. Connor also noted that Canadian individual insurance sales were up by 38 per cent, and sales of individual wealth products were up 30 per cent. But the Canadian business posted an overall drop in profit to $243-million, from $263-million.
Sun Life's Boston-based asset manager, MFS Investment Management, increased its profit to $133-million in the quarter, from $100-million in the first quarter of 2013. The company said mutual fund performance continues to be strong, which helped sales.
Sun Life's operating income in Asia fell in the quarter, to $32-million from $51-million this time last year. The insurer attributed the drop primarily to interest rate changes, which had worked in the company's favour a year earlier. Life insurance sales were also down slightly in the region.
Sun Life introduced a new earnings metric in the quarter called "underlying net income," which compares closely to the "core earnings" reporting used by Manulife. The measure strips out the impact of interest rates, equity markets and other items. On this basis, Sun Life earned an underlying net income of $440-million, which it said compared to $385-million a year earlier.
Sun Life separately said it would redeem $250-million in preferred shares. The shares are redeemable at a price of $25 each on June 30.
The insurer's stock has climbed 27 per cent in the past year.