TORONTO - Unsteady economic growth is leaving executives at Scotiabank (TSX:BNS) wary about the potential challenges they could face in the coming months.
Incoming chief executive Brian Porter told analysts Tuesday that the bank expects to meet or exceed full-year financial targets, but that growth could be modest in some areas.
"Economic uncertainty persists and this will continue to impact client activity," said Porter, who serves as the bank's president before taking over as CEO when Rick Waugh retires in November.
"The business pipeline for the next quarter is solid and should allow us to experience continued good performance."
Porter said a focus on "cross selling" its bank products will likely "mitigate some of these factors."
The comments came as Scotiabank delivered third-quarter earnings that beat analyst expectations and raised its quarterly dividend by two cents to 62 cents per share.
The bank earned $1.77 billion or $1.37 per share for the quarter compared with $2.05 billion or $1.69 per share a year earlier when it benefited from the sale of its headquarters in Toronto.
On an adjusted basis, earnings were $1.39 per share, coming in above analyst expectations of $1.31 per share, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters, but down from $1.70 cents per share a year ago.
Revenue rose slightly to $5.52 billion from $5.51 billion.
Scotiabank noted that last year's results benefited from an after-tax gain of $614 million on the sale of Scotia Plaza in Toronto, equivalent to 53 cents per share.
The most recent quarter included a net benefit of seven cents per share related to non-recurring items in international banking, including a gain on the sale of a subsidiary by an associated corporation.
Adjusting for both these items, diluted earnings per share grew 12 per cent, the bank said.
Executives downplayed the effects that rising interest rates could have on Scotiabank's operations. The higher cost of borrowing tends to leave more consumers on the sidelines.
"While we continue to believe that the Canadian housing market generally remains stable, there may be some softness in Canadian housing and market prices in the short-term," said chief risk officer Rob Pitfield.
"Credit quality and performance of the residential portfolio remains strong."
In the Canadian retail banking division, net income rose 13 per cent to $590 million, fuelled by the acquisition of ING Bank of Canada.
Provisions for credit losses, or the money set aside to cover bad loans, declined by $88 million.
National Bank analyst Peter Routledge said overall the third-quarter results were close to what he expected.
"It wasn't like it was a disaster," he said. "It was a good quarter, but a lot less good than we had hoped."
Routledge pointed to Scotiabank's international operations as an area where the bank's performance fell short of his expectations.
International banking profits rose 26 per cent to $494 million, but the increase of $102 million came mostly from an after-tax benefit of $150 million from the sale of an asset in Thailand.
The bank's overall expenses increased five per cent from the second quarter, rising to $2.98 billion. Expenses came from numerous areas, including pre-tax charges from international banking as well as acquisitions.
The bank expects higher expenses in the fourth quarter on both seasonal patterns and higher costs for growth investments, it said.
The global wealth management division reported net income rose 18 per cent to $327 million, helped by higher contributions from the bank's investment in CI Financial.
Scotiabank has operations across Latin America and the Caribbean and more than 75,000 employees in 55 countries.
Shares of the bank fell 98 cents to close at $57.71 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.