WINNIPEG _ Great-West Lifeco Inc. says the stock market crash and drop in interest rates since December pushed its first-quarter net earnings down by almost 50 per cent compared with a year ago.

The Winnipeg-based insurer says global financial markets plunged due to the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to experience significant volatility.

Increases in insurance contract liabilities in response to lower equity markets, segregated fund guarantees and related hedging ineffectiveness, lower fee income and unrealized losses on seed capital hurt its quarterly earnings by about $300 million.

Great-West says in its quarter ended on Mar. 31 its net earnings attributable to common shareholders fell to $342 million or 37 cents per share from $657 million or 67 cents per share during the same quarter last year.

The company’s base earnings for the quarter, which excluded market-related impacts and other items, totalled $543 million or 59 cents per share, down from $569 million or 58 cents per share a year ago when it had more shares outstanding.

Analysts on average had expected an adjusted profit of 59 cents per share for the quarter, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

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