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Laurentian Bank increases quarterly dividend despite missing analyst forecasts

MONTREAL - Laurentian Bank is increasing its quarterly dividend after posting record adjusted earnings in 2013 but lower fourth-quarter profits that missed analyst expectations.

The Quebec-based bank said its payout will increase one cent to 51 cents per share,to shareholders of record as of Jan. 2, effective Feb. 1

Excluding one-time items, its profits reached a record $156 million, up 11 per cent from the prior year. The bank earned $5.09 per share in adjusted profits, up from $4.98 per share in 2012, but short of the $5.26 forecast by analysts.

Revenues grew nine per cent to $865.3 million largely due to its acquisition of AGF Trust.

"We successfully delivered solid earnings throughout the year and reached record revenues and adjusted net earnings as we leveraged our acquisitions to expand the bank's geographic reach and client base in an environment of slowing consumer loan demand and compressed margins," stated president and CEO Rejean Robitaille.

Overall, Laurentian Bank's (TSX:LB) net profit decreased to $124.7 million from $140.5 million a year earlier.

The full-year results fell short of the $5.26 per share adjusted profits on $868.2 million of revenues forecast by analysts.

In the fourth quarter, its net income plummeted 41 per cent to $27.2 million as it faced $6.3 million in restructuring costs. A year ago its earned $45.7 million including a $16.4 million gain from the acquisition of AGF Trust.

Adjusting for one-time items, its net income dipped three per cent to $35.2 million, or $1.14 per share. That compared to $36.2 million or $1.17 per share a year earlier.

Revenues for the period ended Oct. 31 were $215.5 million, up two per cent from $210.4 million a year ago.

The bank was expected to report $1.31 per share in adjusted earnings in the quarter on $220.5 million of revenues, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

Michael Goldberg of Desjardins Capital Markets said the results were negative and the dividend increase half of what was expected.

"Overall, watch for a negative reaction to Laurentian's fourth-quarter results," he wrote in a report.

The bank says its targeted adjusted earnings is unchanged in 2014 at $145 million to $165 million. The mid-point of $144 million is 2.8 per cent above the level reported this year.

Laurentian Bank's provision for loan losses increased 25 per cent to $10 million in the quarter, largely as a result of higher provisions for personal loans. For the full year, the provisions increased nine per cent to $36 million reflecting AGF Trust's personal loan and residential mortgage loan portfolios.

Net interest income decreased by $1 million to $141.4 million in the quarter reflecting a reduced level of higher margin personal loans, partially offset by slightly improved margins.

Other income increased nine per cent to $74.1 million from $68 million a year due to most revenue streams.

During the past year, Laurentian Bank's workforce decreased five per cent to nearly 4,000 while it cut the number of branches to 153.

Founded in 1846, Laurentian is Canada's seventh-largest bank with $37 billion in assets under administration.

On the Toronto Stock Exchange, its shares lost $1.05 or 2.23 per cent at $46.12 in Wednesday morning trading.

The Canadian Press

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