(Adds details on regional performance)
TORONTO, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Canadian insurer Sun Life Financial reported fourth-quarter earnings that were ahead of market expectations, benefiting from an increase in profits at its U.S. group benefits business.
Sun Life reported earnings per share, excluding one-off items of C$1.05, up from C$0.91 the previous year. Analysts had on average forecast earnings, excluding one-off items, of C$1.02, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S data.
Sun Life said net income, excluding one-off items, grew by 14 percent to C$641 million ($513 million) in the quarter to Dec. 31, 2017. That included a 45 percent increase in underlying net income at its U.S. business and a 29 percent rise in net income at its Asian business.
The U.S. performance benefited from the integration of an employee benefits business acquired in 2016, the company said.
Those improvements, along with a 20 percent rise in net income at the insurer's asset management business, helped offset a 5 percent decline in net income at its Canadian business.
($1 = 1.2488 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Matt Scuffham; Editing by Diane Craft and James Dalgleish)