TORONTO -- Sun Life Financial Inc. says net income rose in the fourth quarter as it benefited from lower taxes in the U.S. and lower-than-expected expenses.

The company says it had a net income of $580 million in the quarter ending Dec. 31, up from a net income of $207 million for the same quarter a year earlier when it was hit by a $251 million U.S. tax charge.

The Toronto-based insurer says adjusted net income came in at $718 million, or $1.19 per share, compared with $641 million or $1.05 per share a year earlier.

Analysts had expected adjusted net earnings of $697.75 million or $1.15 per share, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.

The company says earnings were negatively impacted by higher than expected costs in its insurance coverage of illness and death.

Sun Life's adjusted return on equity came in at 13.6 per cent, up from 12.7 per cent in the same quarter in 2017.