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Competition Bureau gives its OK for Manulife to buy Standard Life Canada

TORONTO – A $4-billion deal by Manulife Financial Corp. (TSX:MFC) to buy the Canadian operations of Standard Life received a formal approval from the Competition Bureau, which said Friday that there are other other providers of similar services that can maintain effective competition.

Manulife said Thursday that it expects the deal to close in the first quarter of 2015, subject to approvals from Canada’s finance minister, certain securities regulators as well as Canadian competition authorities.

Standard Life PLC put its Canadian business up for sale earlier this year, and has about 2,000 employees across Canada, particularly in Montreal and Quebec City.

The all-cash deal, announced in September, will help Manulife boost its presence in Quebec.

Both Manulife — Canada’s largest life insurance company and a global financial services company — and Standard Life Canada offer group retirement and group benefits, as well as wealth management services. Similar financial services are offered by Canada’s big banks, other major insurance companies and the Desjardins financial co-operative.

“The Bureau concluded that this transaction is unlikely to result in a substantial lessening or prevention of competition due to, among other things, the presence of effective remaining competitors in the marketplace for individual wealth products, group benefits and group retirement services,” the federal agency said in a statement.