Manulife Financial Corp. (TSX:MFC)(NYSE:MFC) has bounced back from the dark days of the Great Recession, but investors might not be giving the company the respect it deserves.
Here are the reasons why I think Canada’s largest insurer is worth looking at right now.
Manulife has been on a buying binge and the recent deals look like they will be long-term winners.
Last year Manulife coughed up $4 billion to purchase the Canadian assets of Standard Life Plc. The deal added 1.4 million new customers and immediately gave Manulife a dominant presence in Quebec, where it had struggled to grow. The two companies also plan to cross-sell products to their respective international customers. This is an attractive part of the deal because it is a very efficient way for Manulife to enter lucrative markets, such as India, where Standard Life already has a presence.
In April of this year, Manulife signed a big international deal with Singapore-based DBS Bank Ltd. The 15-year exclusive agreement is a distribution contract that will see Manulife’s insurance and wealth products sold to DBS’s Asian banking customers in Singapore, Hong Kong, China, and Indonesia. This is an area of growth for Manulife and its peers, and the deal makes a lot of sense.
Back in North America, Manulife recently completed its purchase of New York Life’s Retirement Plan Services unit. The acquisition adds $56 billion in assets under management to Manulife’s John Hancock group.
2. Revenue growth
Manulife knows that long-term growth lies in Asia and other emerging markets and the investments being made in international markets are already starting to pay off. The company reported Q2 insurance sales in Asia of US$374 million, a 36% increase over the same period last year.
The region also delivered US$5.2 billion in new wealth and asset management gross flows, a 176% gain over Q2 2014. Overall Q2 core earnings were up 29%, but year-over-year second-quarter net income dropped 36% due to a $362 million hit coming from the effects of a steepening of the yield curve in U.S. interest rates.
3. Dividend growth
Manulife slashed its dividend in half during the financial crisis as a measure to shore up its balance sheet. The company is now is solid shape and increased the quarterly payout last year by 19% to $0.155. The company raised it again in April to $0.17.
On an annualized basis, the $0.68 per share payout yields about 3%. Investors should see the distribution continue to climb in the coming years as the recent deals drive core earnings higher.
The stock has enjoyed a nice run over the past five years, gaining nearly 80%. Nonetheless, the shares still trade at a reasonable 10.4 times forward earnings and just 1.2 times book value.
Should you buy Manulife?
The global scope of Manulife’s operations makes the company attractive, especially as Canada works through some tough economic times. South of the border, an interest rate hike is expected by the end of the year. When that occurs, investors should see money flow back into the insurance names because higher interest rates are generally good for the sector.
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Fool contributor Andrew Walker has no position in any stocks mentioned.