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Great-West Lifeco Inc. reported its first-quarter profit fell compared with a year ago, hurt by higher income taxes, lower net fee income in Canada and the U.S., and unfavourable claims experience in Europe.

The insurance company says it earned $657 million or 67¢ per common share for the first quarter of 2019.

That compared with a profit of $731 million or 74¢ per common share for the same quarter last year.

Great-West chief executive Paul Mahon says sales growth was strong and business fundamentals remained sound despite the weaker earnings performance in the first quarter.

Last month, Great-West announced it would consolidate its three Canadian life insurance companies under a single brand — Canada Life.

In addition to the brand unification, Great-West Life, London Life, Canada Life and their holding companies Canada Life Financial Corporation and London Insurance Group Inc. have also begun the process to formally amalgamate as one company.