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Laurentian Bank boosts dividend as profit rises

Laurentian Bank’s main branch in downtown Montreal.

John Morstad/The Globe and Mail

Laurentian Bank of Canada boosted its quarterly dividend Wednesday as it reported better-than-expected second-quarter earnings.

The Quebec-based bank said its dividend will increase by a penny per share to 50 cents, payable Aug. 1 to shareholders of record on July 2.

It is the fifth increase in nearly two years. National Bank of Canada, Bank of Nova Scotia and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce also boosted their payouts this quarter.

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Laurentian earned $35.1-million or $1.10 a share for the quarter ended April 30, compared with $33.9-million or $1.22 a year earlier.

Adjusted for one-time items, the bank earned $40.5-million or $1.29 a share, up from $36.1-million or $1.31 in the year-ago period.

The bank was expected on average to earn $1.24 in adjusted profit in the second quarter, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

Revenue increased 8 per cent to $214.8-million, from $198.7-million a year earlier.

The acquisition of AGF Trust contributed $18.8-million of revenue.

"We delivered solid revenue and earnings growth and again generated positive operating leverage," stated president and chief executive officer Rejean Robitaille.

He said acquisitions and other growth strategies have expanded the bank's revenue base while maintaining a control on expenses.

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"In the midst of slowing loan demand and compressed margins, we continue to focus on growing the more profitable segments of our portfolios and are particularly directing our attention toward the integration of our recently acquired businesses."

Provisions for loan losses increased by $1.5-million to $9-million including $2.5-million related to the AGF Trust loan portfolios.

Gross impaired loans were $117.7-million, down from $128.0-million as of Oct. 31.

Return on equity was 10.3 per cent, down from 12.0 per cent for the same period in 2012.

While the U.S. economic recovery has continued to gain traction, Laurentian's outlook for Canada remains unchanged.

"The economic recovery has lost momentum and is still expected to remain modest owing to a smaller contribution to growth from the public sector and a declining housing market," it said.

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The bank expects the housing market slowdown will continue throughout 2013, but did not expect sharp price corrections.

It slightly revised downwards its forecast for economic growth in Canada and expects real GDP to grow only by 1.5 per cent in 2013 and 2.2 per cent in 2014.

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