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Canada's Sun Life beats profit estimates on strong insurance sales

FILE PHOTO: The Sun Life Financial logo is seen at their corporate headquarters in Toronto

(Reuters) -Canada's second-biggest life insurer Sun Life Financial Inc on Thursday beat analysts' estimates for first-quarter profit, powered by strong insurance sales at home and in the United States.

Chief Executive Officer Kevin Strain said the insurer generated "strong growth in both health and protection sales," as consumers prioritized health and financial security.

Sun Life has focused on expanding overseas as it faces limited growth at home, acquiring Denta Quest in the U.S. last year and inking a partnership with Dah Sing Bank in the first quarter.

At the same time, Sun Life has added digital tools and new products to its offerings at home to boost growth.

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Underlying net income in the United States and Canada, which together account for over 60% of the company's profits, rose 121% and 53% respectively. In Asia, it rose 6%.

Sun Life's results come amid volatility in global markets that has pushed investors towards safe-haven assets, while rising interest rates have caused more uncertainty.

Bigger rival Manulife Financial Corp reported weaker-than-expected earnings for its first quarter, largely due to weakness in its wealth and asset management business.

Earnings from Sun Life's asset management unit fell 12%, hurt by lower fees and broader declines in equity markets.

Underlying net income rose 24% to C$895 million. On a per share basis, it earned $1.52 per share, a cent over analysts' expectations, according to Refinitiv data.

($1 = 1.3372 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Manya Saini in Bengaluru and Nivedita Balu in Toronto Editing by Vinay Dwivedi and Deepa Babington)