Sun Life returns to fourth-quarter profit after major charges a year earlier

TORONTO – Sun Life Financial Inc. (TSX:SLF) returned to a fourth-quarter profit, after posting losses a year earlier, as it improved the performance of its investments.

The company, which is the third-largest insurance firm in Canada, said it earned $395 million, or 65 cents per share, in the three months ended Dec. 31, 2012. The results compared to a loss of $525 million, or 90 cents per share, a year ago when it booked some major charges.

Operating earnings came in at 76 cents per share, outdoing analyst expectations of 63 cents per share, according to a poll by Thomson Reuters.

Revenues were $4.3 billion, which came in short of analyst predictions of $5.95 billion, and were lower than the $5.4 billion reported a year earlier.

“It was a transformational year for Sun Life as we significantly reduced our risk profile and made important strides in implementing our four pillar growth strategy,” president and CEO Dean Connor said in the earnings release.

Sun Life has been shifting its focus in recent months as it continues to face low interest rates which have affected its quarterly results.

In January, the company teamed with Khazanah Nasional Berhad to purchase 98 per cent of a Malaysian life insurance company from its two current owners, which include British insurance group Aviva PLC.

It has also planned to grow its U.S. group insurance and asset management businesses after selling the more volatile variable annuity life insurance unit in December for US$1.35 billion to Delaware Life Holdings.