3-month trading chart for Manulife

Manulife Financial Corp. announced a two-for-one stock split Thursday after its first-quarter profit jumped by 19 per cent to a record $956 million.

Earnings amounted to $1.19 a share, compared with $801 million or 98 cents a share for the same period in 2005.

Revenue rose by $660 million, or 8.6 per cent, to $8.23 billion.

Manulife shares closeddown $1.87to $70.35on the TSX. The company said the stock split, in the form of a share dividend, would be effective on June 2.

"Our share price has appreciated as a result of our strong performance and this step will make our shares more affordable and attractive to retail investors," said CEO Dominic D'Alessandro.

Higher profits stemmed from 3 areas

Manulife attributed the higher profit to growth in wealth management, strong investment results and wider new-business profit margins in U.S. insurance.

Premiums and deposits were up by $3 billion, or 20 per cent, from a year ago to $17.9 billion, while funds under management grew by $35.7 billion or 10 per cent to $385.6 billion.

Net income from U.S. insurance operations rose by $23 million to $158 million. Earnings from U.S. wealth management were up $51 million to $255 million.

Results partly offset by rising Canadian dollar

The company said its good results were partly offsetby less favourable insurance claims experience and the rising Canadian dollar.

Manulife now does half of its business south of the border since it acquired Boston-based John Hancock Insurance and Financial Services in 2004.

The company's Canadian division contributed earnings of $238 million, up by $54 million or 29 per cent from the same quarter last year.

Profit from Japanese and other Asian operations rose by $3 million to $162 million, while earnings from reinsurance jumped by $50 million to $92 million.

External asset management and other operations added $51 million down from $77 million a year ago.