TORONTO - Manulife Financial (TSX:MFC) announced Thursday it has expanded its presence in China yet again.

Manulife-Sinochem Life Insurance Co., a joint venture led by the Canadian insurance company, has received approval to operate in the city of Jinhua and was given licences for five satellite offices in three provinces.

The joint venture of Manulife and the China Foreign Economic and Trade Trust & Investment Company is now licensed in 39 Chinese cities.

Manulife said the new insurance licences were granted shortly after Prime Minister Stephen Harper's recent trip to the country.

"We are grateful for the continued strong support from our excellent Chinese partners and from the Canadian and Chinese governments as we continue to expand our presence in this very important and fast growing insurance and wealth and asset management market," said Donald Guloien, Manulife's president and chief executive officer.

Jinhua, with a population of 4.6 million, is a communications centre in southeast China and is one of the major hubs of land transportation in the country. The five satellite offices are in the Fujian province, the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and the Zhejiang province.

"The granting of these six new licences is a very welcome step forward for Manulife-Sinochem as we continue to expand to serve China's fast growing insurance needs," said Manulife-Sinochem chairman Marc Sterling.

Manulife-Sinochem currently has more than 11,000 staff and agents serving over 450,000 customers across China.

In mid-November, Manulife announced it was growing its Chinese operations with a deal to buy Fortis Bank's 49 per cent interest in China-based ABN AMRO TEDA Fund Management Co. for US$156 million.

The recently announced Manulife TEDA joint venture will provide wealth and asset management services to a current base of over 1 million customers.

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