International insurance and wealth accumulation company, Sun Life Financial has reported record operating earnings of $1.7 billion for the year ended December 31, 2004. Operating earnings were up 14.5% over 2003.

The positive results were primarily driven by increases in equity markets, with double-digit earnings growth in the company’s Canadian, US and Asian businesses, the company said.

Operating earnings in the fourth quarter of 2004 were $438 million, up $21 million over the operating earnings for the fourth quarter of 2003 despite a decrease of $15 million, or 3 cents per share, due to the strengthening of the Canadian dollar against foreign currencies. Sales growth was strong in 2004, with sales of individual life and health products up 30.2% for the year and net group life and health sales up 46.9%.

In Canada, Group Retirement Services is the number one provider of employer-sponsored retirement plans and had 42% market share of pension sales for the first nine months. Group Benefits in Canada continued to acquire significant new business and Group Life & Health in the US had record sales in both the fourth quarter and for the year, complementing the strong persistency of that business.

Sales of individual life insurance in the company’s joint venture in India in 2004 were 173% ahead of 2003 with this country leading the strong growth in sales experienced in the Asian operations.

Donald Stewart, CEO, said, I am pleased with the progress made in each of the company’s business groups over the course of the year. Reflecting our continued positive financial performance and confidence in the outlook for the current year and beyond, the board of directors is increasing the quarterly common share dividend by 9% to 24 cents per share.