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Manulife Asset Management, an arm of the leading Canada-based financial services company Manulife Financial Corp. (MFC - Analyst Report), announced its expansion into Korea. Manulife received a Cross Border Investment Advisory license in the country. To oversee the operations in the region, the company has appointed Peter Kim as Managing Director.

Peter Kin joined the company last year and was responsible for developing business strategies in Korea for Manulife Asset Management. His seventeen years of experience in alternative asset management companies will be fruitful for Manulife’s Korean operation.    

Korea seems particularly attractive to Manulife because of its vast institutional asset management market in Asia, which is expected to grow 14% to KRW320 trillion by 2015. Additionally, institutional investors in the Asia are very eager to make portfolio diversification.  

The company took a similar step last month by setting up a head office in Cambodia. The main motive behind this was to expand its business and presence in the Cambodian region.

Last week, Manulife Financial reported a second-quarter 2012 operating loss of 18 cents, compared with the income of 26 cents per share in the prior-year quarter. The disappointing results came on the back of a volatile equity market and a weak interest rate environment.

Nevertheless, the Asia division's operating performance for the second quarter was solid. Asia division net income of US$283 million, excluding notable items, was driven by strong growth of in-force earnings and higher new business gains. The Asia division delivered record insurance sales, which was 17% higher than the prior year. Many of the territories recorded year-over-year double-digit growth, with Japan, Hong Kong and Indonesia reporting record sales.

Manulife currently retains a Zacks #2 Rank, which translates into a short-term Buy rating. Considering the fundamentals, we are maintaining our long-term ‘Neutral’ recommendation on shares.

Headquartered in Toronto, Canada, Manulife Financial operates as a life insurance company and offers reinsurance services. The company functions as Manulife Financial in Canada and Asia, and primarily as John Hancock in the United States. MetLife Inc. (MET - Analyst Report) is one of its biggest competitors.

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