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Here are the top reads on deals and financial services over the last 24 hours,

FINANCIAL SERVICES NEWS

RBC CEO sees ‘challenging’ years ahead as profits slip at Canada’s largest bank: Royal Bank of Canada is starting to feel the sting of slowing economic growth and trade, as fourth-quarter profit slipped and its chief executive officer warned of “challenging” days ahead. Story (James Bradshaw)

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National Bank hikes dividend as profit tops forecasts: National Bank of Canada increased its fiscal fourth-quarter profit by 7 per cent and raised its quarterly dividend. Story (James Bradshaw)

Laurentian Bank reports lower fourth-quarter profit: Laurentian Bank of Canada raised its dividend as it reported that its fourth-quarter profit fell compared with a year ago. Story (The Canadian Press)

Baker bid for HBC as good as it gets, head of specal committee says: Over the course of two days in August, long-time Hudson’s Bay Co. director David Leith met with the retailer’s largest shareholders to hear their plans for turning around the struggling 350-year-old company. A few of them were radical. Story (Andrew Willis and David Milstead)

‘We still score, we still win’: Schwarzman offers insight on the alternative asseet industry: Don’t tell Stephen Schwarzman there is too much money chasing too few deals. The co-founder, chairman and chief executive of alternative asset manager Blackstone Group Inc. has US$148-billion of client capital he needs to put to use – an almost unimaginable amount of what’s known in the industry as dry powder. Mr. Schwarzman is confident the New York-based company can invest it all, and earn handsome profits. Story (Andrew Willis)

DEALS NEWS: MERGERS, ACQUISITIONS, IPOs and FINANCINGS

Telus to buy German call-centre business, considers IPO for international arm: Telus Corp. is buying a German business-services company for $1.3-billion through its Telus International unit, which the Canadian telecom company is considering taking public. Story (Alexandra Posadzki)

Infrastructure Bank pledges up to $300-million for port expansion near Montreal: Plans for a major South Shore expansion of the Port of Montreal received a boost Wednesday of up to $300-million from the Canada Infrastructure Bank. Story (Bill Curry and Nicolas Van Praet)

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