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Manulife's new China license targets outward-focused investors

As Chinese investors look to diversify their holdings, Manulife could benefit.

Earlier this month, the Canadian giant became the first financial institution to secure an investment company wholly foreign-owned enterprise (WFOE) licence in China, which allows it to launch investment products on the mainland via a wholly-owned local subsidiary.

"We have investment products that are manufactured around the world, allowing people access to global investment opportunities, and we'll be able to sell them to qualified institutional investors here in China," CEO Donald Guloien told CNBC at the China Development Forum in Beijing.

Many local investors are trying to internationally diversify, he said, so there's healthy demand for those products, which will cover everything from equities to fixed income to agriculture.

Even as leading experts worry over China's economic problems like high levels of leverage and debt, Guloien said he remains confident.

An investor looking at stock prices in Haikou, China, August 11, 2015.
Reuters
An investor looking at stock prices in Haikou, China, August 11, 2015.

"The structural reforms that are being undertaken are reducing leverage or reducing overcapacity in a variety of industries and, I think, are going to minimize the risk of a hard landing."

Meanwhile, China's booming middle class was helping boost Manulife's insurance and wealth management businesses, he added.

A third of the firm's business is in Asia, where it sees the greatest opportunities, Guloien said. Compared to Europe, where the regional economy is saturated with large insurance and wealth management companies, Guloien said he believed Asian growth was far more appealing over the long term.

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