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TORONTO, May 3 (Reuters) - Manulife Financial Corp, Canada's biggest life insurer, on Wednesday reported a rise in first-quarter earnings, slightly beating market forecasts with help from strong sales in Asia.
The company said core earnings, excluding one-time items and market movements, rose 22 percent to C$1.1 billion ($801 million), or 53 Canadian cents a share. Analysts on average had expected core earnings of 52 Canadian cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S data.
"In Asia, we achieved a 31 percent increase in annualized premium equivalent sales, with strong double-digit growth in most territories and importantly, a 53 percent increase in new business value, which speaks to the quality of sales we generated," said Chief Financial Officer Steve Roder.
Manulife is expanding in Asia as the region's burgeoning middle class looks to save and invest. The company has benefited from a partnership with Singapore's DBS Group, agreed in 2015, through which it sells its products through the lender's Asian branch network.
Net income rose to C$1.35 billion, up C$305 million from the year before, while assets under management rose to over C$1 trillion for the first time in the company's history, it said. ($1 = 1.3729 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Matt Scuffham; Editing by David Gregorio and Diane Craft)