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Could Manulife Financial Corp. Be the Missing Stock in Your Portfolio?

Warren Buffett built his empire on the back of his insurance companies. Customers pay their premiums each and every month, providing new liquidity that Buffett then leveraged into new investments.

Let’s assume there are 10,000 customers who each pay $500 a year in some sort of insurance. That’s $5 million in total. Yet how many of those 10,000 are going to actually need their insurance? The difference between what comes in and what goes out is the float. That difference is investable money.

Manulife Financial Corp.  (TSX:MFC)(NYSE:MFC) is the largest insurer in Canada. And it has been able to leverage its size to expand into other parts of the world. For example, in the United States it operates through the John Hancock brand, and it has exposure to nearly every country in Asia, where I think true greatness will occur for Manulife.

In September 2015, Manulife acquired the pension business from Standard Chartered Bank, which will provide a strong flow of fees. On top of that, it signed an exclusive 15-year deal where Manulife will be the only institution that can offer insurance and wealth management to Standard Chartered’s customers.

In January, it signed another 15-year deal with DBS Bank Ltd. This organization operates throughout Singapore, mainland China, Indonesia, and Hong Kong.

Separately, the Manulife Asset Management Private Markets division announced that it was acquiring 49% in QMLP, a multi-family real estate product in Toronto. This is a $1.3 billion portfolio with +7,100 units across 38 properties. The float that I described above makes these sort of deals possible.

While all of these partnerships are obviously exciting, investors need to know if they’re generating returns. As you’ll see, I think they are…

In the first quarter, Manulife’s net income was up 45% year over year to $1.045 billion. In its core earnings, it earned $905 million, which was up year over year from $797 million. Its core return on common shareholders’ equity of 9.3% was in line with the previous year.

A big reason for this increase is because it saw a 14% increase in insurance sales with its Asian partnerships driving a lot of that growth. In particular, Asia insurance sales increased by 36%. In the United States it saw a 4% increase in insurance sales. In a saturated market like the United States, this is a good sign.

But here’s the real question: Should you buy?

I like two things about Manulife. The first is that it gives tremendous exposure to the Asian market, where its middle class is growing. They’re going to want the products that Manulife offers, so buying this stock gives investors exposure to that market.

The second thing I like is that at present-day values, it pays a 4.11% yield. This $0.19 per share dividend is paid quarterly and, I believe, makes it a solid income investment. Two years ago, the dividend was 42% lower, so I expect it to continue to increase if earnings follow.

Therefore, I do believe this stock is worth checking out and buying. It has growth potential in a booming market and distributes lucrative income. If you ask me, that all points to Manulife being a good buy.

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Fool contributor Jacob Donnelly has no position in any stocks mentioned.

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