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Manulife granted license to launch products from new Shanghai unit

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Manulife Financial Corp has been granted a license that will allow it to launch investment products in China through a wholly-owned local subsidiary, as Beijing further liberalizes its capital markets.

Canada-based Manulife said on Wednesday that the creation of the Shanghai-based unit paves the way for the financial group to provide its global public and private products in the fast-growing asset management industry in China.

"This underlines Manulife's commitment to China and to the city of Shanghai by supporting its vision as a regional financial center," said Donald Guloien, president and chief executive officer of Manulife.

"This also allows us to better fulfill our aspiration in serving Chinese investors to achieve their respective investment objectives."

A growing number of foreign financial institutions, including Fidelity, Aberdeen Asset Management , U.S. hedge fund Bridgewater Associates and Vanguard have recently set up wholly foreign-owned enterprises (WFOE) in China.

Previously, foreign asset managers looking to distribute investment products in China had to operate through minority-owned joint ventures with Chinese firms, but Beijing has been gradually loosening the reins.

Manulife already has a 51 percent investment in the joint venture company, Manulife-Sinochem Life Insurance Co. Ltd, based in Shanghai. 

The new entity, however, will allow Manulife to serve a broader investor base such as small and medium-sized institutions, private banks and independent wealth management platforms, the company said.

(Reporting by Michelle Price; Editing by Stephen Coates)