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A National Bank location in Toronto. (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)
A National Bank location in Toronto. (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)

National Bank first among Big 6 to boost dividend Add to ...

National Bank of Canada raised its dividend after reporting a 20-per-cent increase in fourth-quarter profit Thursday, making it the only Big Six Canadian bank to boost its payout so far.

Canada’s sixth-largest bank by assets raised its quarterly dividend to 83 cents, from 79 cents, an increase of five per cent. Of the six largest Canadian banks, only Bank of Nova Scotia has yet to report fourth-quarter earnings, which it will do on Friday.

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Analysts considered National to be a favourite to raise its dividend this quarter. Royal Bank of Canada and Bank of Nova Scotia both announced higher payouts last quarter.

National Bank made $351-million, or $1.97 a share, in the fourth quarter, driven by higher trading revenue in its investment banking operations and increased loan volumes. That compared to earnings of $292-million, or $1.62 a share, during the same period last year.

The results were in line with what analysts were expecting. Excluding one-time items, National made $1.93 a share. Analysts were expecting earnings about $1.92 a share from the Montreal-based bank.

For the full year, National made $1.63-billion, up 26 per cent from the year before.

National Bank chief executive officer Louis Vachon said growth in personal loans, higher revenue from wholesale trading, and contributions from recently acquired wealth management assets helped drive earnings. The bank has acquired several asset management businesses over the past two years, expanding its operations across the country.

“In the quarters ahead, we will continue to invest in a prudent, targeted manner while ensuring sound management of costs and capital,” Mr. Vachon said in a statement.

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