Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Banks' combined profits slip, but business 'robust'

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TORONTO -- Strength on the capital markets helped most of the country's biggest banks report improved third-quarter results, but combined profits at the top five banks slipped to $7.63 billion.

A year ago, Canada's big banks -- Royal Bank of Canada, TD Bank, Scotiabank, CIBC and Bank of Montreal -- combined to earn $7.8 billion in the same period.

The decline was due to lower third-quarter earnings at Scotiabank and TD Bank.

Ian Nakamoto, director of research at MacDougall, MacDougall & MacTier, said weaker-than-expected performance by Scotiabank's international banking operation was the biggest disappointment during the quarter.

Canada's most international bank, which reported on Tuesday, earned $1.77 billion or $1.37 per share.

That's down from $2.05 billion or $1.69 per share in the same period last year, when earnings were boosted by the sale of Scotiabank's headquarters.

TD Bank was the only other bank to report lower profits for the three months ended July 31 compared with a year ago.

TD was hit by losses related to its insurance business due to claims associated with the recent severe flooding in Alberta and the Toronto area.

A loss of $243 million at TD Insurance affected the bank's overall results as it reported a profit of $1.53 billion or $1.58 per diluted share, compared with $1.7 billion or $1.78 per share in the year-earlier period.

Overall, Nakamoto said, earnings reports from the big banks were strong, despite ongoing concerns about a lagging housing market.

"The banking sector continues to be very healthy and robust, and fears over the residential housing market in Canada should dissipate," he said.

Nakamoto said a focus on wealth management helped Royal Bank come out ahead of the pack, beating analyst expectations by the widest margin.

Canada's largest bank by assets earned a record profit of $2.3 billion or $1.52 per share in the three months ended July 31.

That's up three per cent from $2.24 billion, or $1.47 per share, in the same period a year earlier.

"Those (banks) that had more wealth management did better than the others," said Nakamoto. "But they all have pretty strong wealth-management platforms."

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce earned $890 million or $2.16 per diluted share in the most recent period, up from $841 million or $2 a diluted share in the same period last year.

On Tuesday, the Bank of Montreal said it earned $1.14 billion or $1.68 cents per share for the quarter ended July 31, up from $970 million or $1.42 per share in the same year-earlier period.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 30, 2013 B4

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