Sun Life improves first quarter earnings, ups dividend six per cent

TORONTO – Sun Life Financial Inc. (TSX:SLF), citing “solid contributions from all four pillars” of its business, has reported first-quarter earnings that easily beat estimates and announced a six per cent increase in its dividend.

In a report issued Tuesday after markets closed, the big Toronto-based insurer said underlying net income, which removes the impact of items such as interest rates and equity market movements, was $516 million or 84 cents per share in the three months ended March 31.

That was up from $440 million or 72 cents in the comparable year earlier period and easily beat the average analyst estimate for adjusted net income of $471 million or 77 cents per share as compiled by Thomson Reuters.

Net income was $441 million or 72 cents per share, up from $400 million or 65 per share in the same period last year, matching per share estimates as compiled by Thomson Reuters.

Total revenue was $7.33 billion — up from $6.46 billion a year ago — included net premiums of $2.207 billion, net investment income of $3.87 billion and fee income of $1.255 billion.

Meanwhile, the company said it was increasing its quarterly dividend by two cents a share to 38 cents, payable June 30 to shareholders of record at the close of business on May 27.

“Our first quarter underlying earnings were strong . . . driven by solid contributions from all four pillars,” president an CEO Dean Connor said in a statement accompanying the results, referring its business in Canada, the United States and Asia as well as asset management.

“In Canada, Sun Life entered into a groundbreaking longevity insurance agreement, transferring the longevity risk for $5 billion of Bell Canada’s pension plan liability to Sun Life, further strengthening our leadership position in the Canadian pension de-risking market,” Connor added.

Meanwhile, global assets under management rose 20 per cent to a record $813 billion from $676 billion as at March 31, 2014, reflecting the strengthening of the U.S. dollar and market movement, with assets under management its U.S.-based mutual fund company MFS increasing to US$441 billion.