Manulife Financial Corp, parent of the second-largest SAR life insurer, has reported second-quarter earnings of C$247 million (about HK$1.29 billion), up 21 per cent on the same period last year. Ahead of the strong results announced last night Hong Kong time, the Canadian insurance group's shares reached a record high of HK$150 yesterday before it closed at HK$149, up 3.4 per cent on the previous close. The group's earnings per share during the quarter rose to 51 Canadian cents per share from 41 Canadian cents per share a year earlier. Return on shareholders' equity for the quarter was 15.2 per cent, up from 13.2 per cent last year. The board of directors has approved a quarterly shareholders' dividend of 10 Canadian cents per share to be paid on September 29. The earnings rise is partly due to the strong sales growth of the group's global life-insurance business. Its life-insurance sales increased 113 per cent during the quarter in the United States, 17 per cent in Canada, and 46 per cent in Asia, excluding Japan, compared with the second quarter last year. Manulife International (Hong Kong) has reported a 20 per cent year-on-year growth in premium income to C$320 million for the quarter to June 30. Funds managed under the Hong Kong arm rose to C$6.1 billion, up 31 per cent from June 30 last year. 'These results show we continue to benefit from the improved business environment in Hong Kong,' said Edward Lau, senior vice-president and Manulife International general manager.