Manulife says it can withstand equity volatility

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 24 2009 11:14 AM | Updated as of Feb 25 2009 12:15 AM

Canada's largest insurer Manulife Financial Corp. will only consider issuing common shares if it were pursuing a "strategic transaction," the company said Monday.

In a statement released at the Philippine Stock Exchange, Manulife said it continues to be well-capitalized and is able to withstand additional equity volatility despite the decline in equity markets since the beginning of the year.

"Given our financial strength, we may be one of the few global companies able to do a large strategic acquisition in these opportunistic markets. We continue to be very disciplined in our approach," Manulife President and CEO Dominic D'Alessandro said.

"Any transaction must be beneficial to our shareholders and must maintain our capital position for the benefit of our policyholders," he added.

Manulife recently filed a shelf prospectus with Canadian and US regulators to provide the company with maximum flexibility to take advantage of acquisition opportunities available in current markets.

Any such acquisitions, Manulife said, would be principally funded through common share equity at the time of the acquisition.

Manulife said the shelf prospectus will also enable the company to refinance its debt and other obligations in the ordinary course through the issue of debt and preferred shares as market conditions allow.

A newspaper report on Monday cited Manulife as among the final bidders for the acquisition of Philippine American Life and General Insurance Co. (Philamlife) and its subsidiaries.

Other bidders include Banco de Oro Unibank - Assicurazioni Generali SPA, the Ayala Group of Companies,  and Prudential Life of the UK. The winning bidder is expected to be announced by March. -- With the Philippine Star