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Sun Life's quarterly core profit tops estimates on demand for personal insurance

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

TORONTO (Reuters) -Canada's Sun Life Financial on Wednesday reported a quarterly core profit that topped analysts' estimates, boosted by strong demand for personal insurance in its home market and the United States.

Canada's second-biggest life insurer has benefited from a slew of acquisitions, partnerships and deals to sell through bank's sales channels, that has helped it add thousands of clients and grow its reach globally.

CEO Kevin Strain in a statement said the results were driven by "exceptional sales for individual protection" and "good momentum" in its group health and protection businesses.

The partnerships, including with Hong Kong's virtual insurer Bowtie and Canada's Scotiabank, to distribute alternative investment options comes as it also competes with bigger rival Manulife.

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In Canada, it bought virtual care provider Dialogue Health Technologies and made an investment in virtual pharmacy Pillway.

Those moves helped Sun Life record 32% growth in core profit in its Canadian operations, also driven by higher volume and yields. In the U.S., core profit rose 8%.

Strain said the company would continue to focus on digital innovation and partnerships.

Earnings from the wealth and asset management unit rose 7%, helped by higher fee-related revenue and investment income.

Overall, underlying profit was C$983 million ($730.31 million), or C$1.68 a share, in the three months ended Dec. 31, compared with C$892 million, or C$1.52, a year earlier.

Analysts had expected a profit of C$1.58 a share, according to LSEG data.

($1 = 1.3460 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Nivedita Balu in TorontoEditing by Lisa Shumaker and Bill Berkrot)