Manulife to outsource Canada real estate services to JLL; 50 job cuts expected

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 Manulife to outsource Canada real estate services to JLL; 50 job cuts expected
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(Adds divisions performance, CFO comments during latest earnings call)


By Divya Rajagopal and Bhanvi Satija

Nov 24 (Reuters) - Manulife Financial Corp will outsource its property operations in Canada to commercial real estate broker JLL Inc as part of a longer-term strategy to focus on its entrepreneurial investment management unit, Canada's biggest life insurer said Thursday.

The change to a new structure will result in Manulife Investment Management, which overseas the real estate portfolio, shedding 50 jobs, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday. The sources declined to be identified because the details are not public.

Manulife Investment Management, which manages about C$807 billion ($605 billion), benefited from a favorable credit market experience in the latest quarter, but that was partially offset by lower-than-expected returns from its real estate business, Manulife Chief Financial Officer Philip Witherington told analysts during the post earnings earlier this month.

Toronto-based Manulife will outsource leasing services to Chicago-based JLL under a short-term contract, after which services will be provided by a range of brokerage firms, the insurer said in a statement to Reuters.

"As part of this repositioning, our teams working in Canada property operations will move to JLL in March 2023," Manulife said. The company did not immediately disclose how many people would be affected.

Manulife shares were up 1.1% in opening trade, outperforming the financial sub-index, which was up marginally.

Manulife Investment Management's real estate arm uses a pool of capital to invest in real estate in 29 cities across the United States, Asia and Canada. According to its last annual report, the insurer had about C$13.2 billion ($9.9 billion) worth of real estate investments in 2021.

Companies across the world have rushed to rein in costs and shed workforce due to sharp rises in interest rates. The Bank of Canada has hiked its benchmark rate by 350 basis points since March to 3.75%, a 14-year high. Another increase is expected in December.

Among other financial services companies, Canada's biggest lender, Royal Bank of Canada and Bank of Montreal have recently cut jobs in the United States.

JLL Canada said it would help Manulife "achieve operational efficiencies," but did not disclose any financial details about the companies' collaboration.

Earlier this month, Manulife reported a drop in third-quarter profit, as escalating worries of an economic downturn impaired earnings at its wealth and asset management unit. ($1 = 1.3336 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Niket Nishant and Bhanvi Satija in Bengaluru and Divya Rajagopal in Toronto; editing by Jason Neely and Jonathan Oatis)

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