TORONTO – Manulife Financial Corp. (TSX:MFC) is raising its dividend for the first time in five years after it more than tripled profits in the second quarter.
The insurance company reported that net income attributed to shareholders increased to $943 million, or 49 cents per share, as the growth of its insurance operations in Asia continued to escalate and its North American mutual fund business improved. A year ago, the insurance company reported net income of $259 million or 12 cents per share.
Excluding certain items, Manulife earned 36 cents per share versus 31 cents per share year over year. Analysts on average were expecting earnings of 40 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters.
Donald Guloien, the company’s president and chief executive, said Manulife’s performance is improving at a good pace, built on momentum from its Asia business, particularly Japan.
“Our wealth results were strong, driven by the success of our North American mutual fund businesses and improved momentum in Asia,” he said in a statement. “Most notably, we generated strong sales growth in Japan and in other parts of Asia, but insurance sales in Canada were lower than what we would have liked.”
The earnings improvement also led Manulife to raise its quarterly dividend by 19 per cent, or 2.5 cents, to 15.5 cents per common share.
This is the first dividend increase for the company since August 2009 when it halved its dividend payout to 13 cents per share a move it said would save $800 million a year. At that time, Manulife had seen its results erode on stock market weakness.
“We are delivering on our earnings plan, volatility is being contained, and the outlook for earnings growth is positive. We have improved our leverage ratio and have a strong capital position,” said Guloien.
“Happily, we are also seeing more certainty around capital rules and other regulatory matters, here in Canada, the U.S. and globally, and sooner than we expected. All of these factors made us feel confident proceeding with a dividend increase.”
Barclays analyst John Aiken said the dividend increase may help investors forget that core earnings came in below analyst expectations.
“We believe that this is a distinct positive and may come somewhat of a surprise to the market. However, despite the vote of confidence by the Board on Manulife’s outlook, core earnings did come in below expectations,” he wrote in a note.
Toronto-based Manulife provides products and services including individual and group life and health insurance, pension products, mutual funds and other banking products. It has operations in Asia, Canada and the U.S., where it owns insurer John Hancock.