Canadian-based insurance giant Manulife plans to open an office in Beijing early next year as part of a strategy to expand its mainland business. With offices in Guangzhou and Shanghai, Manulife Hong Kong vice-president and general manager Edward Lau said the move would help the company develop its insurance business using a three-hub geographical system. 'We now have three cities to build our network from. Our next step will be to apply for insurance licences in cities around our three main hubs since it will be easier for us to provide support and reinforcement services.' Mr Lau said. 'If you look at their geographical location, we now have one office each in the north, the east and the south.' He cited Tianjin, Ningbo, Suzhou, Hangzhou and Shenzhen as cities the company would target in the near future. Meanwhile, the second-largest life insurer and pension provider in Hong Kong said third-quarter net profit rose 27 per cent to HK$428 million from $366 million in the same period last year. Total premiums and deposits for the quarter increased 34 per cent to $3.6 billion from $2.6 billion previously. Mr Lau attributed the positive growth results to the improved economy. He did not expect the company to benefit substantially from the closer economic partnership arrangement as it was already established in the mainland. Although he was optimistic about the company's prospects in the mainland, Mr Lau said he could not provide an expansion schedule because of the complications involved in the licence application process. 'When we apply for a licence, we have to do it one at a time since we have to obtain approval not only from the central and provincial government, but sometimes the city and even county government as well,' he said. The firm has operations in 15 countries and more than 20,000 employees worldwide.