Manulife IPO priced at $18 a share

Manufacturers Life is the latest Canadian insurance company to "demutualize" and take its chances as a publicly traded company on the stock market. But if the people at Manu-Life thought they'd go public without hitch, they were wrong.

U.S. investors rejected Manu-Life's proposed debut price of $20 to $23 per share. Instead, Manu-Life, one of Canada's biggest insurance companies, jumped into the market at $18 even.

That's at the bottom end of the $18-to-$24 range the company predicted for the shares in May. But Manu-Life's president Domenic D'Alessandro wasn't disappointed with the final price.

"Today's price is not a bad price at all, If one looks at the price in relation to other indicators like book value or earnings, the price is very acceptable."

The total value of the offering, $2.48 billion, will be the largest initial offering in Canadian history, beating the previous $2.26-billion record for IPOs set in by Canadian National Railway Co. in 1995.

Manu-Life now has a total market capitalization of about $10 billion.

The company is one of five Canadian insurers going public through a process called demutualization. The first to take the plunge was Great West Life, which now goes by the name Clarica.

Manulife's 671,000 eligible policyholders will get an average of about 740 shares each, worth $13,320. However, individual payouts depend on the size and maturities of policies.

The company's shares will trade under the "MFC" symbol on the Toronto, Montreal and New York stock exchanges.