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CI Financial Corp. has quietly yet steadily stayed on the acquisition trail in the United States – but in a way that has buttressed, rather than damaged, its balance sheet.

CI’s third-quarter results, released Thursday, show that while the deals continue, the Toronto fund company has found a way to save cash on acquisitions and use it instead for share buybacks. CI, which has already spent $374-million this year on buybacks, says it plans a substantial issuer bid, under which it will purchase up to $100-million more – or about 4 per cent to 4.5 per cent of the company’s shares outstanding – depending on the prices paid.

Phil Hardie, an analyst at Scotia Capital Inc., estimates the new buyback would put CI on track to repurchase just over 17.5 per cent of its shares outstanding this year.

CI’s latest financial statements show the company has spent just under $507-million on U.S. wealth-management acquisitions in the first nine months of this year. Only $104.6-million of that, however, was cash.

Under chief executive officer Kurt MacAlpine, CI has embarked on a major expansion of its wealth-management business, spending $4-billion since 2020. Most of that has been in the U.S., where its newly branded Corient Private Wealth LLC – derived from “client oriented” – now has nearly $200-billion in assets under management.

Investors, however, balked at the debt CI incurred in the expansion, sending the shares to multiyear lows earlier this year.

CI’s financial statements show the shift in how it now pays for its acquisitions.

Its year-to-date total U.S. expenditure of $507-million included $133.7-million in share units tied to the value of the Corient business, and an estimated value of $268.7-million for “other liabilities.” These include earn-out provisions that pay the owners of the acquired wealth-management companies extra money if the companies hit certain financial targets in the coming year.

That mix of payments reflects less dependence on cash and more on future payments: In 2020, cash made up 35 per cent of CI’s consideration for acquisitions. In 2023, its dropped to a little more than 20 per cent of the total consideration.

That has helped CI manage its liabilities: Its net debt, which is the amount of its borrowings after its cash is considered, ticked up only slightly to $3.46-billion at Sept. 30, from $3.30-billion at June 30, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. That number peaked at the beginning of 2023 at nearly $4.2-billion.

CI has $685-million of acquisition liabilities on its balance sheet, with $550-million due within the next year.

By CI’s calculation, its ratio of net debt to adjusted profits rose to 3.3 at Sept. 30 from 2.9 at the end of the second quarter. The number topped 4.0 at the beginning of 2023.

“As we have consistently said, we take a dynamic approach to capital management,” Mr. MacAlpine told investors on a conference call Thursday. “We leaned heavily into buybacks in Q2 and Q3 to essentially complete our 2022 and 2023 normal course issuer bids, given the disconnect we continue to see in our stock price from the underlying value of the businesses we’ve built.”

CI said Thursday that in October, it acquired Windsor Wealth Management Inc., an Indianapolis-based registered investment adviser with about $1.9-billion in assets under management (AUM).

It was the fifth wealth-management deal of the year, with CI acquiring San Antonio-based Intercontinental Wealth Advisor ($2.3-billion AUM) and Montreal-based Coriel Capital ($1.3-billion AUM) in the third quarter; and Houston-based Avalon Advisors and Garden City, N.Y.-based La Ferla Group, with a combined $11.9-billion AUM, in the second quarter.

CI said it posted adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $276.6-million in the third quarter, up from $250.9-million in the same period in 2022.

The company’s bottom line, calculated according to International Financial Reporting Standards, was a $12.2-million loss, compared with $14.4-million in net income in 2022′s third quarter. CI’s accounting adjustments exclude things such as transaction and restructuring costs, foreign currency impacts, and changes in the fair value of a number of its liabilities.

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