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Manulife Financial (MFC)

MFC

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We are upgrading our recommendation on the shares of Manulife Financial Corp. (MFC) following strong first-quarter results. The company reported operating earnings of $1.13 billion, higher than $871 million in the prior-year quarter. Manulife has achieved a great deal in reducing potential equity markets and interest rates risk exposures, along with minimizing existing risks.

We also remain impressed with the company's significant progress made in diversifying its businesses, achieving growth in targeted areas and cultivating new revenue streams. Our six-month target price of $16.00 equates to about 50.0x our earnings estimate for 2012.

We view the $0.52 per common share annual dividend as secure, implying an expected total return of about 24% over the next six months. This is consistent with our Outperform recommendation on the shares.

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