Great-West Lifeco Inc. (TSX:GWO) saw its year-over-year earnings rise in the first quarter of 2013, as sales of group insurance products jumped and wealth management sales moved higher.

The Winnipeg-based insurer reported on Thursday net earnings attributable to common shareholders of $517 million for the three months ended March 31, 2013, an increase of 15% compared to $449 million in the first quarter of 2012.

This represents 54 cents per common share for the quarter, compared to 47 cents per share for the same period in 2012.

Total net premiums for the quarter were $4.58 billion, up from $4.53 billion last year, while total net investment income increased to $1.83 billion from $1.25 billion.

Fee and other income was $778 million, up from $724 million.

In the company’s Canadian unit, total sales for the quarter were $3.0 billion compared to $2.7 billion during the same quarter in 2012, an increase of 13%.

Sales of group insurance products were up significantly for the quarter, at $288 million, from $134 million a year ago.

Wealth management sales were $2.6 billion, up 8% from a year ago, reflecting a 30% increase in sales of group retirement products.

Meanwhile, individual insurance product sales were down 8% year over year, reflecting lower sales of universal life policies.

Great-West Life announced during the quarter that it had reached an agreement with the Government of Ireland to acquire, through its subsidiary Canada Life Ltd., all of the shares of Irish Life Group Ltd. for $1.75 billion (€1.3 billion).

In conjunction with the proposed acquisition, the company said on Thursday that it has successfully completed two significant capital market transactions:

  • On March 12, the company completed an issuance of subscription receipts in both public and private offerings with aggregate gross proceeds of approximately $1.25 billion.
  • On April 18, the company issued €500 million of euro denominated ten year bonds, at an annual coupon of 2.50%.

The company has now raised all the funding required to complete the acquisition of Irish Life Group, it said.

At its meeting on Thursday, the company’s board of directors approved a quarterly dividend of $0.3075 per share on common shares, payable June 28, 2013 to shareholders of record at the close of business May 31, 2013.

Executive changes

Great-West Life also announced a number of executive changes on Thursday. Allen Loney has announced his intention to retire as president and CEO of Great-West Lifeco, Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life. Loney has held these positions since 2008. He will continue to serve as a director.

Loney will be replaced by Paul Mahon, who has been serving as president and chief operating officer, Canada of Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life. He has been associated with Great-West Life for 27 years.

Mahon will be replaced by Dave Johnston, who has held the position of executive vice-president in the company’s group division for the past seven years.

In addition, Raymond McFeetors has announced his decision to step down as chairman of the company. McFeetors, who has held the position since 2008, will continue to serve as a director.

He’ll be replaced by Jeffrey Orr, a director since 2002 and president and CEO of Power Financial Corp.