National Bank rides strong Quebec economy to higher third-quarter profit

MONTREAL — National Bank of Canada beat expectations in its third quarter with a seven per cent increase in profit driven by growth across the company.

Net income climbed to $608 million last quarter from $569 million a year earlier, boosted by rising earnings in all segments.

Chief executive Louis Vachon stressed that each line of business contributed to the “solid performance.”

“In an environment of economic and geopolitical uncertainty, the bank will maintain its disciplined approach to managing costs, credit and capital,” he said in a statement.

National Bank’s personal and commercial banking division earned $277 million last quarter, up from $250 million year over year and helped by a growth in mortgage and commercial lending.

The wealth management business earned $126 million, up from $120 million a year ago, while the bank’s financial markets arm earned $182 million, up from $178 million.

The bank’s U.S. specialty finance and international division earned $69 million, up from $54 million in the same quarter of 2018.

National Bank has benefited from the robust economy in Quebec, its main market.

According to the most recent data from the Quebec Institute of Statistics (ISQ), real gross domestic product — adjusted for inflation — posted 2.8 per cent growth from April to May, which is two times higher than the Canadian average.

In May GDP rose 0.5 per cent, the eighth consecutive monthly increase and the longest since 1997, when the ISQ began tracking the statistic.

National Bank said Wednesday that profit amounted to $1.66 per diluted share for the quarter ended July 31, compared with $1.52 per diluted share in the same period last year.

Excluding specified items, the company reported earnings of $606 million or $1.66 per diluted share, up from $569 million or $1.52 per share a year ago.

Analysts on average had expected a profit of $1.59 per share, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

National Bank’s common equity tier 1 capital ratio, a key measure of its financial health, was 11.7 per cent at July 31 compared with 11.7 per cent at Oct. 31, 2018.

The bank’s shares closed up 45 cents, or 0.74 per cent, at $60.90 on Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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