Manulife Financial Corp. says its life insurance division is buying the Canadian-based assets of Standard Life Plc for $4 billion in cash.

The deal combines Manulife, one of the largest life insurance companies in the world with 84,000 employees, and Standard Life Canada, this country's fifth-largest insurer with 2,000 employees.

"Several months ago, Standard Life decided to explore the sale of its Canadian operations through a competitive process," Manulife CEO Donald A. Guloien said. "We are delighted to be named the successful bidder."

Standard Life provides long term savings, investment and insurance products to about 1.4 million Canadians, with $52 billion of assets under management.

Manulife said it was particularly keen to acquire Standard Life’s Quebec assets.

"One of the key reasons we were interested in this company is its people in Quebec. We want to increase our presence in the province and use the very talented employee base to grow and expand our business in Quebec, throughout Canada and indeed the world,” Guloien said in a statement announcing the deal late Wednesday.

Caisse contributes to deal

Manulife plans to pay for the deal with a combination of a public offering, a private placement, internal resources and possible future debt, it said.

Later in the day, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, the Quebec provincial pension fund investment arm, announced a $500‑million equity investment in Manulife Financial to contribute to the financing of the acquisition.

Manulife and Standard Life have previously collaborated in distributing investment products around the world, through a relationship between Standard Life Investments and John Hancock.

Manulife said it would take 18 to 24 months to consolidate the new operations.

Job losses "might" come from the combination of the two insurance companies, but will be "limited," Guloien added.

"We believe [that] in the full integration… the great majority of jobs in Quebec will be maintained," Guloien said.

The company expects the deal to add three cents to its earnings per share every year over each of the next three years and to build earnings capacity beyond the 2016 core earnings target of $4 billion.

The deal closes in the first quarter of next year, pending regulatory approval.

With files from The Canadian Press