Canada-based insurance and financial services giant Manulife is looking to expand its Hong Kong investment management presence this year in order to cope with anticipated growth - principally through its Mandatory Provident Fund business. The Asian investment team is expected to grow to five portfolio managers by the end of the third quarter, ahead of the December introduction of the MPF scheme. Hong Kong-based Manulife (International), which is tipped to be a major player in the scheme, is aiming for a 20 per cent share of the MPF market. 'We will strengthen our competitive position in Hong Kong and on the mainland by investing in training and technology, maintaining superior capitalisation and liquidity and continuing to deliver solid earnings,' Manulife (International) president Vic Apps said yesterday. Last year, during which the group demutualised and listed on the Toronto, Hong Kong, New York and Manila stock exchanges, proved successful for the insurer's Asian business. There was an 18 per cent growth in new premiums and a 7.6 per cent rise in total premiums from all policies to HK$28 billion. Mr Apps said Manulife was also looking to expand its presence on the mainland, an aspiration he believed was more achievable with yesterday's vote in the US House of Representatives granting Beijing permanent normal trade relations status. Despite its Canadian domicile, Manulife is likely to benefit from an opening up of the mainland's insurance and financial services markets. Mr Apps said the group, which has a licence to operate only in Shanghai, aimed to open an office in Guangzhou shortly and in the long term hoped to expand both its presence across the mainland and its range of services.