POLITICS

National Bank raises dividend, Q4 profit up 20 per cent from year earlier

12/06/2012 07:40 EST | Updated 02/05/2013 05:12 EST
MONTREAL - National Bank announced Thursday it that its quarterly dividend will go up in the new year, following a fourth quarter that saw its net income rise 20 per cent over the same time last year.

The Montreal-based bank's quarterly dividend on common shares will increase by five per cent or four cents to 83 cents per common share, starting with the January payout to shareholders.

It joins Quebec-based rival Laurentian Bank and Alberta-based Canadian Western Bank (TSX:CWB), which also announced dividend increases this week. Four bigger Canadian banks have kept their dividends unchanged in their announcements.

John Aiken of Barclays Capital said the results represent National Bank's best quarter to date and, unlike other banks, it didn't benefit from an unusually low tax rate.

"Unlike the other banks that have reported to date, there are very few negative issues to point at in National’s earnings, particularly on a relative basis," Aiken wrote in a report.

"Solid earnings, capped with what will likely be the only dividend increase this quarter (among the large Canadian banks), should garner some relative outperformance for National."

Aiken said future dividend increases are "a distinct possibility" because National Bank's payout ratio still remains below 45 per cent.

National (TSX:NA), which is the country's sixth-largest bank, announced Thursday that its profit for the three months ended Oct. 31 amounted to $351 million or $1.97 per share.

For the full year ended Oct. 31, National bank had $1.6 billion of net income — up 26 per cent from 2011. That amounted to $9.32 per share of diluted earnings, up 35 per cent from the same time last year.

Adjusting for one-time items, the bank earned $343 million or $1.93 per share for the quarter and $1.4 billion or $7.86 per share for the full year, in line with analyst forecasts.

Revenues grew by 15 per cent to $1.35 billion in the quarter and to $5.1 billion for the year.

"For the fourth quarter of 2012 and the year as a whole, the bank performed well on the strength of personal loan growth, financial market trading, and contributions from the wealth management acquisitions," stated president and CEO Louis Vachon.

He said the bank's loan portfolio is among the best in the industry and it will continue to invest prudently.

Net interest income from the personal and commercial segment rose $12 million the quarter as higher personal loan volume partially offset narrower net interest margins.

Gains on available-for-sale securities increased $20 million, mainly because of a disposal gain on the investments sold during the TMX transaction.

Underwriting and advisory fees and revenues from trust services and mutual funds increased by $27 million following the integration of Wellington West Holdings Inc. and HSBC Securities full-service investment advisory business.

The increase in revenues during the year resulted from factors, including a gain on the sale of the operations of NatCan Investment Management Inc., personal loan volume growth and wealth management acquisitions.

National Bank's provision for credit losses was $46 million during the quarter, a decrease of $4 million. Gross impaired loans were $387 million, a $20 million decrease from a year ago.

The core personal and commercial segment's profits were unchanged at $157 million but grew by seven per cent to $168 million excluding severances.

The wealth management segment's net income totalled $30 million, down $44 million from a year ago on higher operating costs due to acquisitions. On an adjusted bases, profits fell 10 per cent to $45 million.

Financial markets net income grew by $33 million to $107 million but were up 57 per cent to $124 million excluding severances.

On the Toronto Stock Exchange, National's shares lost 41 cents at $77.36 in morning trading.